Published: Sep 24, 2012 6:23 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 24, 2012 6:40 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Nearly 3,000 teenagers die every year in car crashes, making it the leading cause of death among children and young adults. It's a stastic painfully close to Renee Pisarz's heart.

"We'll never be the same," she says. "To lose a child is the greatest loss."

It's a loss Pisarz will never forget. Her 18-year-old son, Stephen, died when the car he was driving hit a patch of ice and lost control. A passenger in the car with Stephen was injured.

But what haunts Renee most is the fact her son was not wearing a seat belt, a factor in about 60% of deadly crashes involving teens.

Other disctractions can be just as deadly, including texting or talking on a cell phone.

And shockingly, in 27% of deadly crashes, the teen driver was drunk.

"The first year of driving is the riskiest," says Consumer Reports' Liza Barth. "Sixteen-year-olds are three times more likely to be in a crash than 18- or 19-year-olds."

Consumer Reports now says traditional drivers education courses aren't enough. Experts recommend advanced training programs to teach teens how to handle emergency situations and become safer drivers.

New technology is also helping. For example, Ford now offers the programmable MyKey.

"The MyKey has some interesting features," Barth says. "A teen can't turn on the radio until the seat belt is fastened. It also lets parents set a top driving speed."

But Barth says there's no substitute for a safe car.

"Parents tend to buy their teens older cars because they're less expensive," she says. "But they don't have the latest safety features, and that can make all the difference."

Experts say no matter the car or driver, the safest vehicles will include side-impact airbags and electronic stability control. Both are becoming more common on cheaper models.

For a list of the Consumer Reports top used cars for teens, check out this link: