Why is it that the drivers most likely to be involved in a car crash-teens and seniors-drive the worst cars in terms of safety devices? Yet, a new study finds that to be the case. The ones who are most likely involved in car crashes and fatal car crashes are driving cars least equipped with the latest safety equipment.
That adds to risks on the road. Newly licensed drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group, while older drivers have the highest fatal crash rate, according to experts at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
They analyzed crash and licensing data for New Jersey from 2010 to 2017, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on safety features of each vehicle involved in a crash.
Those features included front, side and curtain airbags as well as electronic stability control (ESC). ESC helps a driver maintain control on slick and curvy roads and reduces the risk of dying in a crash by roughly the same amount as seat belts.
The study found that teens and adults 65 and older were more likely than middle-aged adults to drive older cars that lacked ESC or side and curtain air bags. It also found that drivers of all ages from lower-income neighborhoods were less likely to drive newer, safer cars.
On average, teens from lower-income neighborhoods drove vehicles that were nearly twice as old as teens from more affluent neighborhoods. Teens from wealthier neighborhoods were 53% more likely to drive cars with side airbags than teens from poor neighborhoods, and older drivers from wealthier neighborhoods were 35% more likely to have vehicles with side airbags than older drivers from poor neighborhoods.
"All drivers should strive to be in the safest vehicle they can afford, regardless of age or income level," said first author Kristi Metzger, a statistical scientist at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention.
"There are many vehicles available with key safety features that won't break the bank, some for less than $7,000," she said in a hospital news release.
Teens presumably drive under parental supervision so it seems there is no good reason why they should not be driving in the safest cars. However, this latest study tells a different story. Teens are often driving used cars that are too old to be equipped with the latest safety equipment, something one would think their parents would want for them.