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201 teens die on state roads in five years

Minnesota teens in the state's northwest and southern corners are less likely to travel buckled up compared to their peers in other parts of the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety.

And while teen belt use in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area is above average, the exceptions are Ramsey and Washington counties.

DPS mapped problem spots for teen drivers and their teen passengers based on the percentage of belted deaths. Teens historically have the lowest belt compliance rate of all age groups. DPS issued the report in the midst of a statewide seat belt enforcement campaign running through October.

Key findings in Minnesota during the last five years (2005-2009):

•201 teenagers (ages 13-19) were killed while driving, or riding as a passenger with a teen driver. Of those killed, only 40 percent were belted.

•While belt use of teen drivers (ages 16-19) killed was low at 42 percent, teen passengers (ages 13-19) had an even lower rate of 34 percent.

"Minnesota teens continue to demonstrate a lack of belt use and that's a primary reason they are overrepresented in traffic deaths each year," said Gordy Pehrson, DPS Office of Traffic Safety youth programs coordinator. "While their belt use is generally low, these facts identify problem areas requiring attention, especially unbelted teen passengers."

Minnesota region/county belt use among teen driver/passenger deaths, 2005-2009:

•Northwest Minnesota - 8 deaths, 1 belted (12 percent). Notable counties - Beltrami (3 deaths, 0 belted) and Polk (3 deaths, 1 belted).

•Southwest Minnesota - 28 deaths, 9 belted (32 percent). Notable counties - Chippewa (4 deaths, 2 belted); Kandiyohi (6 deaths, 3 belted); and Redwood (3 deaths, 2 belted).

•Southeast Minnesota - 30 deaths, 10 belted (33 percent). Notable counties - Dodge (4 deaths, 1 belted); Olmsted (7 deaths, 2 belted); Rice (6 deaths, 3 belted); Steele (4 deaths, 1 belted); and Winona (3 deaths, 0 belted).

•Central Minnesota - 48 deaths, 19 belted (40 percent). Notable counties - Kanabec (5 deaths, 0 belted); Morrison (6 deaths, 2 belted); Stearns (6 deaths, 0 belted); and Wright (10 deaths, 4 belted).

•Twin Cities - 57 deaths, 25 belted (44 percent). Notable counties - Anoka (13 deaths, 6 belted); Ramsey (9 deaths, 3 belted); and Washington (12 deaths, 4 belted).

•West Central Minnesota - 11 deaths, 5 belted (45 percent). Notable counties - Douglas (6 deaths, 4 belted).

•South Central Minnesota - 10 deaths, 7 belted (70 percent).

Pehrson reminds parents of their continuing role after their teen's licensure to monitor and train them in a variety of driving conditions and environments. He also stresses for parents to talk with their teen to reinforce traffic laws, such as the primary seat belt law, and to encourage teens to insist their passengers are belted.

Pehrson adds that parents should set rules and limitations, such as curfew and number of passengers. DPS offers a teen-parent driver contract at; click on "Teen Driving."