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DMV Urges Parents To Pick Teens' Cars Wisely

By Don Stacom, The Hartford Courant
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 21--When parents help teenagers shop for a used car, they should focus heavily on safety, worry less about style and avoid the lure of high horsepower, Connecticut's top motor vehicles official says.

The Department of Motor Vehicles is promoting a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that recommends looking for bigger, heavier vehicles with relatively modern safety features, even if that means compromising a bit on gas mileage and price.

"This important report shows clearly again the critical role that parents play to ensure their teen remains safe behind the wheel," motor vehicles Commissioner Melody Currey said. "It is not just enforcing the teen safe driving laws, but also choosing the right car for their newly licensed driver."

The institutes newly released list of the safest cars for teen drivers is big on models like the Buick Verano, the Subaru Legacy and the Volkswagen Passat. Not surprisingly, stylish speed machines such as the Subaru WRX, the Dodge Challenger or Ford's Shelby GT500 don't make the cut.

The list also omits the super-small cars, which some families might think of first as a way to keep gas costs down. And older cars don't make the grade because they don't enough new safety equipment, even though teenagers and their families might find them the most affordable.

"A teenager's first car is more than just a financial decision," says Adrian Lund, president of the institute, a non-profit study organization funded by the insurance industry.

Lund's organization commissioned a national phone survey of parents of teen drivers; 83 percent of those who bought a car for their children got a used -- rather than new -- one. More than half of them purchased pre-2006 models.

"That's a problem because older vehicles are much less likely to have safety features such as electronic stability control and side airbags," the report's authors wrote.

Connecticut's DMV wants parents to know four key recommendations from the survey: Avoid high-horsepower cars because young drivers will be tempted to test the limits; choose larger vehicles and shun mini-cars because more size and weight usually protect better in a crash; select cars with the best safety rating possible from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and seek out cars with electronic stability control.

The full report and a the list of safer cars is at

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(c)2014 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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