High School Graduation Season Brings Increased Need for Teen Driving Safety

UNITED STATES  --  The month of May has arrived, which means many high school graduations will be taking place.

Graduates usually receive a lot of gifts including money and college necessities, but as NBC's Chris Clackum reports, one gift in particular could do more harm than good.

It may have already happened: before the walk to get the diploma, some parents give their teenage child their first car. Oftentimes they are used vehicles, but new research shows this may be the wrong choice.

"Teen drivers are the riskiest drivers on the road, and, unfortunately, our research shows they are often driving some of the less safe vehicles in the market," said David Zuby, Vice President of Research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has just published a list of the safest used cars for teen drivers.

"The good news about our list is that we've got some fairly affordable vehicles that meet pretty high safety criteria," said Zuby.

He also says cars in general have gotten safer over the years, and that has trickled down to the used car market.

Other safety experts are focusing on teenage conduct when behind the wheel.

"Limiting the number of passengers is a life-saver," said Deborah Hersman with the National Safety Council. "It's better for teens to drive three teens in three separate cars than putting all three of them in one car with that new driver."

Hersman says it's most important for parents to remain engaged with their teenager driver.

"Drive with your teen, ride with them, even after they get their license, because they're still inexperienced and they still need you to coach them," she said.

This coaching may lead to a longer life for new drivers.

One suggestion from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling recommends parents create a "rules of the road" contract with their child which includes such things as how many people can be in the car at once, who will pay for gas, insurance, and maintenance, and what happens to driving privileges if the child gets a ticket or has a wreck.