Should Teens Avoid Older Cars?

Dec 19, 2014 05:00 PM EST | Matt Mercuro

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It turns out having your teen get a job to buy an old, cheap car is probably not a good idea after all.

Researchers have found that nearly half of teenage drivers killed on the roads in the last couple of years were driving vehicles 11 or more years old, lacking key safety features available for newer vehicles, according to a new study posted in the journal Injury Prevention.

"We know that many parents cannot afford a new vehicle," said the study's lead author, Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to NBC News. "Our message to parents is to get the most safety they can afford."

For their study, McCartt and her colleagues analyzed data from 2008 to 2012 from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Their data included information on 2,420 drivers ages 15 to 17 and 18,975 drivers ages 35 to 50.

Among the teens who died, 64 percent took place while they were in a car, 35 percent in a mid-size car or larger car and 29 percent were in a small car.

Approximately 82 percent of teen drivers who were fatally injured were in vehicles that were at least 6 years old, while 31 percent were in vehicles 11 to 15 years old.

The most disturbing statistic they found was that nearly half of teens who died were in a vehicle that was at least 11 years old.

The researchers weren't able to figure out the percentage of teens drive older vehicles. There is still good reason to believe that teens would be safer in newer vehicles however.

"We know that teens are less likely than adults to be wearing seat belts and that may be partially because they are driving older cars in which the belts may not work as well," Tony Fabio, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the graduate school of public health and director of the Center for Injury Research Community Action at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said to NBC News. "And you have to think about that in the context of an older car that might not have an air bag."

Fabio added that even though the study doesn't prove older cars are less safe, it does suggest they are.

Click here to check out the IIHS's list of safe cars to figure out what might be best for your teen.

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