The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is urging the parents of teenage drivers to get their teens behind the wheel of the safest car the family can afford.
NZTA chief executive Geoff Dangerfield says road crashes were the single biggest killer of teenagers in New Zealand, teens were over-represented in crash statistics, and a big part of the reason was lack of safety features in the cars many teens drive.
Research from Monash University into crashes involving young New Zealand drivers suggests that if all teens drove the safest car available (of the same age as their current car), death and serious injury rates for teens could be reduced by more than 70 per cent.
New Zealand research by the University of Otago has found that while most parents have some say in the cars their teens choose, only one in five parents considers safety factors in the choice of vehicle for their teen - with most considering small engine and vehicle size as the most important factors.
"We need parents to put more emphasis on safety when they are choosing a car for their teens. Getting your teen behind the wheel of the safest car you can afford could save their life," Geoff says.
"There has been a big push on increasing the skills and safety of teenage drivers in the past year, through increasing the driving age and introducing a more challenging restricted licence test.
"While improving the skills of young drivers is vital, we also need to improve the safety of the cars they are driving. Even the most careful teen drivers make mistakes, and a car with good safety features can help to ensure that mistakes don't cost lives or limbs."
Safer vehicle choices don't have to be the newest, most expensive or even the biggest models. The latest used car safety ratings show a number of makes and models of used cars with four- or five-star safety ratings could be affordable and appropriate choices for young drivers.
Information about safer used cars, based on protection from injury and value for money, including safer options for young drivers, is available in the Used Car Safety Ratings brochure, recently released by the NZTA and the Automobile Association. The information is also available via www.rightcar.govt.nz
Geoff also encourages parents to look carefully at the option of sharing the family car with teen drivers.
Teens who own their own car are more likely to take risks and be involved in crashes than teens who have shared use of a car, according to a recent study.
"It might not feel like it, but parents do have some control over their teens' road safety," says Geoff.
- "By making sure they are driving a safe vehicle and setting boundaries as to when they can and can't use the car, we can help protect them," he says.