Protecting young drivers

FRESNO, Calif.

Not wearing a safety belt is a factor in about 60 percent of fatal car accidents for teens. Distractions such as 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.

Consumer Reports says traditional drivers education isn't enough and recommends advanced training programs to teach teens how to handle emergency situations and become safer drivers.

And Consumer Reports says new technology such as Ford's programmable MyKey reminds teens to do the right thing. It can prevent a teen from putting on the radio until the safety belt is fastened. And parents can set a top driving speed.

Consumer Reports says that 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. Consumer Reports says two really important safety features for teens are electronic stability control and side curtain air bags. Consumer Reports has compiled a list of the best used cars for teens.

There is some good news -- far fewer teens are dying in car crashes now than they used to due in large part to graduated driver licensing. Those laws place restrictions on teen drivers such as limiting late-night driving and the number of passengers. States with the strongest laws have seen a clear reduction in the number of crashes and fatalities.

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