Big, boring and slow cars best for teens
Big, boring and slow. That's the car for teen drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit that analyzes auto safety and driving issues.

"The vehicle choice for teens is especially crucial because of their higher risk of getting into a crash," said Russ Rader, the institute's spokesman.

The institute agreed with many of the findings of Consumer Reports, which has issued its list of the best cars for teen drivers and emphasized the importance of electronic stability control.

Such systems sense when a vehicle begins to slide in a turn and applies the brakes to one or more of the auto's wheels to keep the car on course, said Jim Travers, the magazine's associate autos editor. It will be required on 2012 models, Travers said.

According to the highway safety institute, electronic stability control reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle crashes by 50 percent and fatal multiple vehicle crashes by 19 percent. Moreover, it slashes the potential for fatal vehicle rollovers by at least 72 percent.

Consumer Reports and the institute said teens need vehicles with as many safety features as possible, including anti-lock brakes and curtain air bags. Teens' cars also should have good crash-test results. See the institute's safety ratings at iihs.org/ratings.

The crash risk is four times as high for 16- to 19-year-olds as for older drivers, per mile driven, according to the institute. At age 16, the crash rate is double what it is for 18- to 19-year-olds, it said.

So a small, lightweight car is not a good vehicle for a teen, Rader said, though Consumer Reports does recommend some.

— Jerry Hirsch, Tribune Newspapers