Prom is a rite of passage for high school students across the US, but between selecting a dress, a date and a dinner venue, it's easy to get caught up in the commotion and forget one very important thing: Safe driving.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety is urging parents to remind their kids to drive safely and wear their seatbelts as spring months have been tallying the most unbelted teen deaths.
April, May and June have combined for the highest percentage of unbelted teen deaths in the past three years – 30 in those three months alone since 2010, the DPS says.
Breakdown of unbelted teen driver deaths (ages 13-19) by season, 2010-12:
> Jan., Feb., March: 24 deaths, seven unbelted
> April, May, June: 30 deaths, 19 unbelted
> July, Aug., Sept.: 32 deaths, 13 unbelted
> Oct., Nov., Dec.: 17, seven unbelted
"Poor seat belt use, along with driver inexperience, risk-taking and distractions, are the key factors that make traffic crashes the leading cause of death for teens," Gordy Pehrson, DPS Office of Traffic Safety youth programs coordinator said. "It's imperative that parents and caregivers take the time to talk with their teens about the importance of seat belt use, reinforce teen driving laws, and set their own family driving rules."
The DPS offered a few tips for parents to help establish safe driving habits:
> Drive with your teen and continue to train them even after they receive their license—the first year of driving poses the greatest risk of a crash.
> Train using a variety of road types (urban, rural) and in different conditions (night, rain, snow).
> Set limits and review them with the teen, including passenger rules, nighttime driving and use of technology in the vehicle.
> Tell teen to speak up when he or she feels unsafe as a passenger in another vehicle.
> "Withdrawal of parental consent" form is available for parents to cancel their teen's driving privileges (under age 18).
> Minnesota teen driving laws: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/laws/Pages/teen-drivers.aspx
> DPS Office of Traffic Safety Teen Driver webpage: https://dps.mn.gov/DIVISIONS/OTS/TEEN-DRIVING/Pages/default.aspx
> Minnesota teens are called on to produce seat belt or distracted driving TV PSAs for their chance to win $1,000 from AAA. Entries are due April 15: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/teen-driving/Pages/teen-tv-commercial-challenge.aspx