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Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S., accounting for more than 1 in 3 teenage deaths according to the CDC. Among teen drivers, those most at risk include: males, teens driving with passengers, and teen drivers who have had their license for a year or less.

A variety of factors combine to put teens at a greater risk of a motor vehicle accident than any other age group. Some of these factors include:

  • Inexperience: teens are more likely to underestimate or fail to recognize dangerous situations.
  • No Seat Belt: teens have the highest rate among drivers of failing to buckle up – rates are highest among males and drivers under the influence of alcohol.
  • Risky Behavior: speeding, distractions, following too closely, or drinking are among the top of the list for teens.
  • Alcohol: in 2009, 33% of teen drivers killed in a motor vehicle accident tested positive for alcohol.

The Minnesota state legislature has taken action to help reduce some of these and other risk factors among teen drivers by instituting some limitations:

  • – No driving between midnight and 5 a.m. for the first 6 months of licensure – Minn. Stat. 171.055 Subd. 2(b)
  • – Only one passenger under the age of 20 is permitted (unless accompanied by a parent/guardian, or the passenger is immediate family of teen driver) for the first 6 months of licensure. No more than 3 passengers under the age of 20 are permitted for the second six months of licensure. – Minn. Stat. 171.055 Subd. 2(c)
  • – No cell phone use for driver under age 18 (except to call 911) – Minn. Stat. 171.055 Subd. 2(a)
  • – Absolutely no driving for a person under 21 after consuming any amount of alcohol – Minn. Stat. 169A.33. If a driver under the age of 21 is found to have a B.A.L. of .08 or higher, he/she faces regular DWI laws and sanctions – Minn. Stat. 169A.20

While these laws certainly help to alleviate some of the dangers associated with teen drivers, it’s important that parents of teen drivers take the time to teach proper driving skills and etiquette. When your teen is riding as a passenger with you, explain what you are doing and what you are looking for. Talk to your teens about the risk factors shared above. You may want to consider sitting down with your teen driver and creating a driving contract. I found great resources for you and your teen at:

Think about it.

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