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Tips to avoid tragedy among teen drivers

A young driver is seen in this undated file photo.
September 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Car accidents are the number one killer of teenagers. Nearly 3,000 teens die in crashes every year, more than from cancer, gun violence or drug use.

Renee Pisarz says her 18-year-old son Stephen was just a few miles from his destination when his car skidded on ice and flipped several times, killing him and injuring his passenger.

"We'll never be the same. To lose a child is the greatest loss," said Pisarz.

What haunts Pisarz is that Stephen was not wearing a seat belt, a factor in about 60 percent of fatal car accidents for teens. Distractions like texting or talking on the phone are also factors. And in fatal accidents, 27 percent of young drivers were drunk.

"The first year of driving is the riskiest. Actually, 16-year-olds are three times more likely to get in a crash than 18- or 19-year-olds," said Liza Barth, an editor of Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports says traditional driver's education isn't enough and recommends advanced training programs to teach teens how to handle emergency situations and become safer drivers. New technology like Ford's programmable MyKey reminds teens to do the right thing.

"Ford's MyKey has some interesting features. A teen can't put the radio on until the seat belt is fastened. And also parents can set a top driving speed," said Barth.

The car itself is also important.

"Parents tend to buy their teens older cars because they're less expensive, but they don't have the latest safety features and that can make all the difference," said Barth.

Consumer Reports says two really important safety features for teens are electronic stability control and side curtain air bags.

Consumer Reports has compiled lists of the best new and used cars for teens. There are several vehicles on each list including SUVs, compacts and sedans.

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