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Otter Tail County is No. 1 in teen deaths due to traffic crashes

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With April, May and June combining for the highest percentage of unbelted teen traffic deaths during the past three years, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety is urging parents to reinforce safe driving habits for their kids during prom season and the end of the school year.

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Over the past three years, there have been 30 teen motor vehicle occupant deaths in April, May and June, and 63 percent of those killed were not buckled up.

Parents in Otter Tail County should pay particular attention to this warning: according to Jane Patrick of the Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition, Otter Tail ranks number one on the list of all Minnesota counties in teen deaths due to traffic crashes.

“The prom and end of the school year season is an exciting time for teenagers, but it also has proven to be a dangerous period on the road,” said Gordy Pehrson, youth programs coordinator for the Office of Traffic Safety. “Contributing to the tragedies is a high percentage of teens who were not buckled up.”

The deadliest months for teen motorists over the past year were in July (14), April (13), May and January (10 each).

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for Minnesota teens. From 2010-2012, 103 teen motorists were killed in traffic crashes. Only 44 percent of those were belted.

“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,” said Pehrson. “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.”

Parents, grandparents and other caregivers should always know where their teen is going, who they’ll be with and when they are expected to be home. Parents should also make themselves available to pick up their children at any time or location.

Parent resources, including a driver’s skills checklist, a parent-teen contract, teen driver laws and a parent withdrawal form, may be found online at ots.dps.mn.gov. Click on “Teen Driving,” found under “Traffic Topics.”

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