A rash of fatal accidents involving teenagers is calling attention to state traffic laws that many believe have made Minnesota one of the deadliest states for teen drivers, the Associated Press reports. Teens make up only 7 percent of the state’s 3.9 million licensed drivers, but they were in the driver’s seat in 14 percent of the crashes last year. Statistics show that about one in eight teen drivers is involved in a crash each year, and traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 17-year-old Minnesotans – beating suicide, other accidents, disease and homicide. Last week, a study by a Chicago-based traffic safety group found that Minnesota’s percentage of fatal crashes involving at least one 16- to 20-year-old driver is among the highest in the country.
Minnesota is one of only five states without an overnight driving curfew for young drivers, or any restriction on the number of passengers who are not family members that teen drivers can carry. As a result, the state has developed the reputation as weak in protecting teens from their own inexperience. “It should be a no-brainer,” said Ron Anderson, whose 15-year-old daughter, Samantha Kelly, died in an accident last month. “We should protect our children against distractions. They need the experience driving. They don’t need the experience of chitchat.”