Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for Minnesota teenagers each year. This number runs much high than other causes of deaths among teens — more than drug use, suicides, homicides, or other accidents. A lot of the reasons for the high death count is simple: distractions and driver inexperience that lead to making mistakes behind the wheel.
The top risks that factor into accidents and deaths include:
Lack of seatbelt use – The chance of surviving a crash is cut in half when motorists and passengers don’t buckle up.
Distractions – Inattention figures into a lot of crashes from teens. Included in distractions include passengers, use of cellular phones and electronic devices.
Night-driving and fatigue – A driver who has been in the seat for 24+ hours is equivalent to a person who has a blood-alcohol level of .10.
Excessive speed – Inexperience can lead to difficulty judging safe speeds and adjusting to driving conditions.
Teen driving laws in Minnesota:
All drivers and passengers need to use seatbelts with children in correct proper restraint. Anyone not following this law will be ticketed when stopped by law enforcement.
The use of a cell-phone — either handheld or hands free (except to call 911) — is illegal for drivers under the age of 18. It is illegal for drivers of all ages to use cell-phones for text messaging or internet while vehicle is in motion. (See below for tips on how to avoid cell phone use while driving)
It is illegal for anyone under 21 of age to drive after consuming any amount of alcohol. Drivers under 21 with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher will face DWI laws and sanctions.
Underage drinking consequences include loss of license for at least 30 days and court fines. Teenage drivers with provisional licenses will have driving privileges revoked is a crash is caused due to an alcohol-related violation and will give up driving privileges until age 18.
While Minnesota has laws for the new driver, it is also important to rules established between teen and parent. Some steps can be taken to help a teen understand the importance of being behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Avoiding cell phone use while driving:
Place phone out of reach and turn it off before starting car
Make last minute calls before starting car
Ask a passenger to make and answer phone calls
Create a voicemail that tells callers you won’t answer calls or texts while driving
Ask friends and family not to call during expected drive times
If you must take/make a call, find a safe place to pull over for the conversation.
Established rules for newly licensed teens:
Communication – Setting and establishing guidelines is key when it comes to communicating rules, responsibilities, and consequences for a new driver.
Safety – Safety should always be a priority over convenience and haste. If accidents happen because of inexperience, reexamine driving privileges and augment practice time until driving skills improve.
Consequences – Talking about consequences may seem negative, but involving a teen in the rulemaking process will help them make better choices. The encouraged response is to limit privileges, and sometimes a written agreement strengthens the agreement.
Studies show that a driver’s greatest risks of accidents and citations occur within the first year of receiving a license. Within that first year, there are some levels of restrictions that can be implemented to limit these accidents.
Recommended restrictions for teenage drivers:
Daytime driving only
Minimal stress driving conditions (low traffic and good weather conditions)
No passengers under the age of 21
Limited nighttime driving that includes a curfew
Medium stress driving conditions (medium traffic volume and moderate weather)
Only one passenger at a time under 21
Nighttime driving with no more than one passenger under 21
No more than three passengers under 21
All road and traffic conditions approved
Adhere to passenger limitations
As teen drivers gain experience, they demonstrate better decision making. Set rules, but allow the teen to gain this experience.