Safest used car features for teen drivers

By Jena Johnson - bio | email | Twitter

TYLER, TX (KLTV)- Finding the safest, used car for your new teenaged driver can be exhausting. Especially when they want style, and you want safety. That's why KLTV 7 set out to find the safest used cars that won't break the bank or your sweet sixteen's heart. In a special 7 On Your Side report, experts explained what safety features you should look for when teen car shopping.

Alan Beam is searching for the safest used car for his 16-year-old son, Brandon.

"I'm kind of set on getting a truck or a Mustang," Brandon said.

"Pick-up or car that's safe," Alan said. "One that has good side impact, five star safety ratings."

Before Alan purchases his son his first car, he says there are some non-negotiables.

"It's a compromise. Style versus safety. A lot of the times the teens are looking for something that's more stylish, but dad's looking for safety features," he said.

According to several credible online auto guides, parents like Beam should start by looking at crash rating scores. A four or five star rating is the safest. Insurance adjuster Chip Crist said cars that meet those scores all have one thing in common: Air bags, and lots of them.

"You have the airbags all the around in this car," Crist said. "You have the dual front airbags, you have the side curtain airbags as well as the side impact airbags. Those features alone are going to keep your child safe."

But what about a car that's smart enough to help your teen control accidents? Crist said vehicles equipped with Electronic Stability Control help the car stay on its intended path, meaning less spin outs and rollovers. According to Consumer Reports, ESC has been found to reduce the risk of deadly, single-vehicle accidents by 51 percent.

Crist said before your teen buckles up and starts the engine, make sure they can see over the wheel.  He said simple features like a manual or automatic seat adjuster can maximize visibility.

"It has a power seat that can lift up a young driver that's maybe short or not as tall as the rest," Crist said. "It'll lift them up so they can see."

Experts also said cars with a 4-cylinder engine are best for teens.

"A 4-cylinder like this being a front wheel drive car is much safer," Crist said. "It provides plenty of pep for a car to be able to merge into traffic."

Crist said 4 cylinder engines won't encourage teens to test their speed.

"He's not going to win any races in this car," he said.

But you will win when it comes to keeping your teen safe on the road. Crist said distractions can jeopardize even the safest drivers. That's why the cars experts chose don't have all the bells and whistles. Just the basics. Something parents appreciate and teens will learn to appreciate.

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