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Spring months bad for unbelted teen deaths

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With April, May and June combining for the highest percentage of unbelted teen deaths during the past three years, the Minnesota Department of Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety is urging parents of teens to reinforce safe driving habits.

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There were 30 teen motor vehicle occupant deaths in April, May and June during the past three years, and 63 percent of those killed were not buckled.

"The prom and end of the school year season is an exciting time for teenagers, but it also has proven to be a dangerous period on the road," said Gordy Pehrson, DPS Office of Traffic Safety youth programs coordinator.

"Contributing to the tragedies is a high percentage of teens who were not buckled up," he said.

Unbelted teen vehicle occupant deaths (ages 13-19) by season, 2010-12:

January, February, March: 24 deaths, seven unbelted.

April, May, June: 30 deaths, 19 unbelted.

July, August, September: 32 deaths, 13 unbelted.

October, November, December: 17 deaths, seven unbelted.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in Minnesota teens.

"Poor seat belt use, along with driver inexperience, risk-taking and distractions, are the key factors that make traffic crashes the leading cause of death for teens," said Pehrson.

GUIDE FOR PARENTS TO ESTABLISH SAFER TEEN DRIVERS

• Provide significant supervised driving training and continue to do so even after licensure. The first year of driving poses the greatest risk of a crash.

• Train teen on a variety of road types (urban, rural) and in different conditions (night, rain, snow).

• Talk with teen to reinforce laws and set limits, such as passenger limitations, nighttime driving. Use a driving contract between parent and teen to set rules.

• Encourage teen to speak up when they feel unsafe in a vehicle to stop unsafe driving behaviors.

• A withdrawal of parental consent form is available for parents to cancel their teen's driving privileges if younger than age 18.

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