WASHINGTON — The number of traffic deaths in the United States rose 8% from 2014 to 2015, the largest year-to-year percentage increase in a half-century, according to preliminary estimates by the National Safety Council.
Deadliest driving year since 2008
About 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads, and 4.4 million people were seriously injured, the council said. That would make 2015 the deadliest driving year since 2008.
The council said a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates were probably among the key factors, along with lower gas prices. With driving more affordable, more people are on the road. Average gas prices were 28% lower last year than in 2014 and are projected to continue dropping this year.
Teens in particular are three times more likely to crash a vehicle versus a 20+ adult, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). That means the choice of automobile for your teen driver is a very important one! Here are a few pointers from Consumer Reports to keep in mind when selecting a vehicle for your teen…
1. The fewer cylinders, the better
Four cylinder engines are perfect because they don’t have so much muscle that they’re unwieldy. Typically, that means a nice and boring family sedan! But avoid V6 versions of the popular sedans; they’re too powerful in the hands of an inexperienced driver. Meanwhile, forget about the need for speed: Look for a humble ride that goes zero to 60 mph in anywhere from 7.5 seconds to 11 seconds.
2. Forget about a sports car!
Sports cars are a definite no-no. Too much muscle! They also cost too much and come with higher insurance rates and maintenance costs. While you might be tempted to buy an older model that’s more affordable, it may lack current safety features.
3. Skip the SUV too
You would think SUVs and pickups would be a no-brainer when it comes to protecting a young driver. But while they’re generally good in multi-vehicle crashes vs. smaller cars, they’re more prone to single vehicle crashes and may not boast the advantage you think. ‘According to IIHS, even though passenger car occupant death rates are similar in single (55%) and multi-vehicle (51%) crashes, single vehicle crashes accounted for 61 and 62% of SUV and pickup truck fatalities in 2013,’ Consumer Reports writes.
4. Minivans can contribute to distracted driving dangers
Distracted driving is a big deal for drivers of all ages. Whether it’s texting, blaring music or transporting distracting passengers, the result is the same: You can be involved in a potentially deadly crash. Minivans and three-row SUVs allow your teen driver to have a gaggle of unruly kids out for a ride. Not good!
5. Don’t forget the #1 safety feature!
With all the new safety features in cars coming soon, there’s one that remains the make-or-break feature you need, particularly if you have younger drivers. Today’s cars are better at limiting injury or fatality when in an accident. That’s due in large part to electronic stability control (ESC). Remember this rule: Do *not* buy a car for a kid if it does not have ESC on it.
Read more: 3 ways to monitor your teen behind the wheel
The Associated Press contributed to this report.