Does your teen drive a safe car?

Vehicle choice is particularly important for young drivers

ARLINGTON, VA - If your teenager has just gotten a driver's license, chances are he or she is looking forward to driving to school this fall. It may be hard to imagine handing them keys to your brand new car, but that may be the smartest vehicle to choose.

While getting a driver's license is an exciting rite of passage for teens, it can be enough to make a parent frantic. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Insurance Information Institute (III) say there's something worried parents can do to protect their teens -- choose a safe vehicle.

Teenagers should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer state-of-the-art protection in case they do crash. The first years teenagers spend as drivers are very risky. In fact, teen drivers have the highest death rates of any age group. In 1997 alone, more than 5,700 teenagers died in motor vehicle crashes, and many more were left severely and permanently injured by crashes.

Teen drivers not only lack experience, for many of them immature behavior, such as speeding and reckless driving, is common. They may drive cautiously when mom or dad is in the car, but when they're on their own or with other teens, bad driving is often the norm. Keep this in mind when you decide which vehicle your teen will drive and avoid vehicles that encourage reckless driving.

Avoid choosing vehicles with a performance image. Sports cars and other vehicles with performance features, such as turbocharging, are likely to encourage speeding. Choosing a vehicle with a more sedate image reduces the chances your teen will be in a speed-related crash.

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