IIHS: Teens’ Cars Should Be Big, Slow & Ugly

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You've heard the statistics before, and they're not pretty. Teen drivers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as adults every year. 

A lot of that comes down to choosing the right car for your teen, but experts say it's not about the make or model; it's what's inside that counts. 

There are so many factors that go into buying a car, especially for a new driver, but safety is always top of mind. So if you find yourself on the showroom floor, listen to the experts, and remember three simple words. 

"Actually what you want is a car that teenagers don't want. You want it to be big, slow, and ugly," said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

When it comes to crash safety ratings, the IIHS sets the gold standard. 

"Teens are at higher risk, and what you want is the latest crash protection in the vehicle that they're driving," Lund said. 

Teenage drivers drive less than almost all other demographics, but they still get into three times more crashes than drivers 20 and older. That's why Lund says parents should think big for protection: slow, to reduce the likelihood of crashes, and ugly because - who's going to cruise around in that? 

"A mid-sized car or larger. SUVs are also good because, again, they're bigger vehicles and can help protect the teens in the crashes they get into," Lund said. 

Auto Superstore General Manager Dennis Engle says safety is one of his customers' top concerns. And for parents of new drivers, he says don't rush it.

"Do your research. Don't go out and buy the first vehicle that you see," Engle said.

"First vehicle my son drove did not have side airbags. Now side airbags with head protection are standard equipment," Lund said.

In the past 15 years, Lund says the auto industry has made dramatic improvements to vehicle safety. From side airbags to shield your face and head to electronic stability control to keep you headed in the right direction in dangerous conditions. 

"Electronic stability control is probably the most important advance in highway safety since we put seatbelts in cars," Lund said. 

Lund says the next innovations in vehicle safety are already here - things like adaptive headlamps that turn when you turn, and collision prevention systems. 

The IIHS is now broadening its focus to include not only crash testing, but also crash avoidance testing. A new five-acre test facility will be finished later this year in Greene County.

Click here for more information about teenage drivers.

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