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Old cars the death of teen drivers, study says

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Posted at 3:44 PM, Dec 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-18 19:01:37-05

Buying your kid a cheap, old car might kill them.

Nearly half of teen drivers killed in the U.S. were driving a car more than a decade old, according to a study published Thursday by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety.

Those old cars often lack life-saving features like side airbags or electronic stability control. The researchers cautioned parents to consider the trade-off between price and safety.

"Newer vehicles generally are also more likely to have better crash test ratings and important safety features," the study said. "Parents may benefit from consumer information about vehicle choices that are both safe and economical."

Stability control, which is required on 2012 model year and later cars, can reduce single car fatalities by half, the study said. Just 1 in 10 of the deceased teens drove a car that offered it as an option.

Teen auto deaths are down 70 percent since their peak in 1978. But they’re still three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than adult drivers. In 2011, about 2,650 teens died in wrecks and almost 292,000 were treated in the ER.

The study, which compared teen deaths to those of middle aged adults, was published in the journal Injury Prevention.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk. Follow him on twitter at @GavinStern.