And while we take a lot of pride in Minnesota about being a national leader in rankings for education, health and voting participation, we’re actually one of the national leaders in the percentage of teens who die in traffic accidents. To top that all off, Minnesota is just one of five states in the country that doesn’t have a teen driving curfew and/or restrictions on the number of passengers outside of family members a teen driver can have in a vehicle.
Here are some quick stats that the Star-Tribune reported over the weekend.
• In 2006, the age group of drivers with the most deaths in Minnesota was 15-19, with 70 people killed. No age group 30 or older had more than 40 deaths.
• Teens make up only seven percent of Minnesota’s drivers but are involved in 14 percent of the crashes.
• Overall traffic accident statistics show that one in eight teen drivers are involved in an accident each year in the state.
Past action by the legislature has put on some restrictions on teen drivers. For several years now Minnesota has had a graduated driving license law that includes these provisions:
• New drivers can’t use a cell phone while on the road.
• All passengers in a car driven by a teen need to be seat-belted.
• Must complete one full year of driving without an alcohol or crash-related violation before they can get a standard driving license.
So what, if anything more, should be done?
Would a curfew curtail a lot of teen driving problems? Most the fatalities listed above happened at late-night or early-morning hours of the day. Or would many teens thumb their nose such rules?
The other common method that states use to deal with the situation is to restrict the number of non-family members in the car while a teen is driving. The thinking is, fewer friends in the car will make for fewer distractions to the driver and more attentive driving. Others say that kind of rule will simply divide up teen drivers between more cars.
What do you think? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.