Minnesota’s Biggest Killer of Teens: Traffic Crashes

May 3, 2012
CONTACT Nathan Bowie, 651-201-7571

346 Teen Deaths in Minnesota During Last Decade

ST. PAUL – 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.

Underage Drinking

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.

About the Office of Traffic Safety

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behavior and reduce deaths and serious injuries on Minnesota roads. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for child seats for needy families program. OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative.

Recent OTS Activity

  • Preliminary results from a statewide distracted driving enforcement effort April 19 resulted in 97 texting while driving citations and more than 2,400 vehicle stops.
  • OTS released a study conducted by the University of Minnesota that found the primary seat belt law has resulted in 68 fewer deaths since the law was enacted nearly three years ago.
  • OTS is coordinating a pilot program, parent-teen driver awareness courses, to educate parents about their responsibilities to train and monitor their new teen driver.
  • OTS partners with AAA Minnesota/Iowa for the eighth year of the Buckle Up Teens! TV Commercial Challenge. Teens create TV PSAs to educate peers. Voting for the top spot begins next week.

Nathan Bowie · Public Information Officer
Minnesota Department of Public Safety  |
Office of Communications
651-201-7571 Office | 651-398-7195 Cell | 651-215-1111 Fax