Minnesota's biggest killer of teens: traffic crashesAs prom and high school graduation celebrations ramp up, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety is reminding parents and caregivers about the importance of talking with teenagers to reinforce teen driving laws, and to set their own family driving rules.
As prom and high school graduation celebrations ramp up, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety is reminding parents and caregivers about the importance of talking with teenagers to reinforce teen driving laws, and to set their own family driving rules.
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for Minnesota teens. There were 346 teen traffic deaths during the 10-year period of 2001–2010. Other leading causes of teen death are suicide (180); other unintentional injury (99); cancer (80) and homicide (67).
“The main reasons teenagers are overrepresented in crashes are inexperience and risk-taking. But the biggest reason they die is not buckling up,” says Gordy Pehrson, youth programs coordinator at DPS Office of Traffic Safety. “Parents have a great responsibility to be engaged and monitor their teens’ driving, especially during their first year of driving when there is the greatest risk of crashes.”
Role of Parents and Safe Teen Driving
DPS is urging parents to talk to their teens about the life-saving importance of seat belts, and the dangers and consequences of speeding, distracted driving and alcohol use. Parents are encouraged to:
· Reinforce teen driving laws such as belt use, passenger limitations, nighttime driving, no cell phone use and no texting (including when stopped in traffic). Parents can use a parent-teen driver contract to establish the rules — and should follow through with consequences.
· Continue to provide supervised experience for their teen driver in a variety of conditions and road types (rain, snow; busy highway, rural road, nighttime). Parents can use a driver skills checklist to help train the teen.
· Encourage teens to speak up in a vehicle when they don’t feel safe.
· Agree to provide a safe ride for their teen anytime and anywhere needed.
· Know where the teen is going, who they are going with, and tell the teen when they are expected to be home.
While alcohol-use is not a significant factor in teen crashes, parents should understand the rules and consequences of underage drinking.
· “Not a Drop” law — Drivers under age 21 cited for consuming any amount of alcohol will lose their license from 30 to 180 days, and face up to a $700 fine and 90 days in jail. This citation will stays on a driver’s record for 10 years. There were more than 4,200 “not a drop” convictions of underage drivers during 2008–2010.
· DWI — Minors will lose their license until age 18 when arrested for DWI or involved in an impaired driving crash or crime. A DWI offense can result in one year in jail, and cost up to $20,000 when factoring in legal fees and increased insurance rates. A DWI remains on a person’s record for life. There were 7,569 underage DWIs during 2008–2010.
Providing Alcohol to Minors
Adults providers can be held responsible and suffer serious criminal, legal, and financial consequences including: felony charges and prison time in cases of death; civil liability charges in cases of injury, property damage or death; and increased insurance rates.