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Teen Drivers at Higher Injury, Death and Crash Risk in Older, Smaller Vehicles

teen driver crash risk

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for Florida teens, and adolescents face four times the crash risk as drivers over 20, particularly within the first 18 months after receiving their driver’s license. Part of the reason for that could be immaturity, which could lead to dangerous actions behind the wheel that heighten the crash risk. But a new report also finds teen drivers have a greater chance of serious injury or death in a crash because they’re more likely to be driving older, smaller cars.

As one research scientist for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety stated, “Despite everything we know about young drivers and crash risk, teens are still driving the least safe vehicles. Small vehicles do not protect as well in a crash, and older vehicles are less likely to be equipped with essential safety equipment.”

The study authors examined data from deadly crashes that occurred between 2013 and 2017. What they discovered was that among teen motorists killed in these crashes, those operating older vehicles faced four times the fatality risk as those driving newer models. Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of teens who died in collisions were in vehicles that were older than six years. Teenagers also spend more than half their drive time in a vehicle that’s more than a decade old. Nearly one-third of those who died were in vehicles that were lighter and smaller. Less than 4 percent of teen drivers who lost their lives in crashes were in vehicles under three years old.

Our Fort Myers car accident lawyers understand parents’ reluctance to pay a lot of money for their teenager’s first vehicle. But what many probably are not aware of is how much less safe those older cars are.

Why Older Cars Put Teens at Higher Crash Risk

Collectors of vintage cars often muse that “they don’t make ’em like they used to.” But in reality, when it comes to vehicles, they make ’em much safer than they used to. Analysis by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the older the car, the more likely a crash will prove fatal.

Part of the problem is that older vehicles lack a lot of the safety features that now come standard with newer models, such as:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Blindspot detection
  • Emergency braking
  • Side airbags
  • Lane departure warnings
  • Electronic stability control
  • Backup cameras

Smaller cars also have smaller “crush zones,” a structural safety feature designed to absorb the impact of a collision.

Keeping Teen Drivers Safe in Florida

Investing in a newer vehicle is one way to keep teen drivers safer on the road. Of course, it is not in every family’s budget to buy their teen a brand new set of wheels. In fact, almost 85 percent of first cars for teens are used. The IIHS and Consumer Reports team up annually to issue a Safe Vehicles for Teens list, all used and some as inexpensive as $5,000.

Beyond this, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention encourages parents to engage their children in discussions about safety regularly, lead by a good example, and practice driving together. There is also a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement you can download from the CDC’s website that outlines hazards and clear consequences for breaking certain driving rules. These include pledges by the teen driver to always obey the rules of the road, stay focused on driving, and respect laws about drinking and driving. Additionally, it would make sense to go through your automobile insurance coverages with your agent, or one of our team members, to make sure you and your teen driver are adequately insured.

If you would like to speak with a member of our team regarding selecting the proper insurance for your teen driver Fort Myers, Naples, or Key West, contact our injury attorneys at The Garvin Firm at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.

Additional Resources:

Characteristics of vehicles driven by teens and adults killed in crashes, 2013–2017, August 2020, Weast, Rebecca A. / Monfort, Samuel S., Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

More Blog Entries:

Pain and Suffering Damages Awarded in Fort Myers Injury Lawsuit, July 1, 2020, Fort Myers Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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