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Nationally, there is a week in October that has been designated as National Teen Driver Safety Week. The focus is centered on the use of seat belts. Maybe, Minnesota should have a local week on the topic.

This past weekend saw seven of the eleven Minnesotans killed on the highway were teenagers. In many of the cases the lack of seat belts played a role in the young people being thrown from the vehicles.

The Minneapolis Tribune has compiled a scary list as of Mid July:

Twenty-five people ages 16 to 19 have died in traffic accidents in Minnesota this year, according to the state Department of Public Safety. Thirty-five people in that age group died in all of 2009.

Among accidents involving teens this year:

• On April 23, three teenage girls died in a single-vehicle rollover near Altura.

• On April 25, six people died in a two-car head-on crash near Cambridge, four of them teenagers.

• On May 28, a teenage boy died in an ATV crash outside of Caledonia.

• On June 27, a rollover killed two people in Otter Tail County; one was a teenager.

Sorrow goes out, as the stories have been all over TV and the newspapers of family and friends mourning these young adults. Hopefully, we will all learn from these horrific loses.

Many law enforcement officials and schools have programs to help educate teens on the dangers of certain behaviors on the roads.

AAA Statistics show that the top six driving risk factors for teens are:

* Failing to wear a seat belt – each year, 75 percent of teens killed in vehicles are not buckled up. Properly wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury by approximately 50 percent.

* Distraction – text messaging, cell phones, eating, grooming and talking with other passengers increases the risk of being involved in a crash.

* Excessive speed – illegal/unsafe speed is the most common contributing factor in single vehicle crashes for drivers. Teens particularly have difficulty adjusting speed to driving conditions.

* Fatigue – a person who has been awake for 24 hours experiences impairment nearly equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent. Teens often don’t get enough sleep.

* Driving at night – mile for mile, 16- and 17-year-olds are about three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash at night than during the day.

* Driving with other teens – the presence of teen passengers dramatically increases the risk of crashing.

There is also advice to parents:

But most experts say a parent, not a police officer, lecturer or driving instructor, will have the most influence on a young driver’s safe driving habits.

"Parents have these choices, too," Rubiella said. "Kids are implementing the skills and knowledge they learn at home. If you are on the phone while driving, they are on the phone. If you are speeding, they will, too."

Together we can work to prevent a future weekend like this on Minnesota highways. We haven’t seen a weekend like this in Minnesota for a very long time. Hopefully, we won’t ever see it again.

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