By Robby DeGraff
As teenagers get their driver’s licenses and hit the road, parents usually decide what their children drive, and most feel comfortable with a vehicle that’s as safe as can possibly be. Between a Mazda Miata and a Ford F-150 for a child’s first ride, a typical parent would choose the pickup because it’s large, tough and strong.
Letting your teen drive around in a soft-top, lightweight, zippy convertible may not be the best idea, but a pickup may not be the better choice, either, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Texas and published in the traffic safety journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.
The study examined several factors involved in auto accidents, including the severity of the injuries, the time of day, the number of passengers in the vehicle and the type of vehicle. A common misconception is that the bigger and tougher the car is, the safer its occupants will be. However, the risk of injury among 16- and 17-year-olds driving pickup trucks skyrockets to “100 percent more likely” compared with driving a car, the study says. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also found that teenagers driving and riding in pickup trucks face a higher risk of being involved in a fatal crash.
Why? “Most of these pickup trucks, they have a very powerful engine, and a powerful engine capability appears to lead to aggressive driving behavior when the pickup is in the hands of a teenager,” said Chandra Bhat, a professor of engineering and transportation at the University of Texas. Pickup trucks, especially older models, also may not be equipped with the safety features found in a sedan, Bhat said.
So that old 7.3-liter diesel V-8 may sound cool and help when towing (if ever towing) whatever a 16-year-old driver needs to tow, but a car with a smaller, less powerful engine could not only be safer, but a more economical choice for a high-schooler.
[Source: Houston Chronicle]