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Number of teen driver deaths falls dramatically

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Minnesota officials are crediting stricter Minnesota laws for helping to reduce the rate of teen driver fatalities in the state, the Star Tribune reported.

State lawmakers in 2008 created new laws after Minnesota popped up on a list with the highest rate of teenager driver fatalities. (MinnPost noted at the time that media outlets were getting the numbers wrong.) In any event, the state cut its fatalities rate in a big way – in five years, the number of teen driver deaths has been cut in half, the Star Tribune reports. Injury rates also dropped dramatically, from 3,853 in 2007, to about 2,500 in 2012, the newspaper reported.

Traffic crashes are the No. 1 killer of Minnesota teens, according to state data. More than 30 drivers each year ages 16–19 are killed on state roads.

State officials say teens are more likely to be in an accident due to inexperience, risk-taking, speeding and distracted driving. Teens also have the lowest seat belt use rate of all age groups, the state says.

The new laws limited new drivers’ nighttime driving – teens in their first six months of driving are not allowed on the roads after midnight. Gov. Tim Pawlenty at the time said the new rule was a "reasonable" step to curtail the most dangerous period of driving.

Some safety advocates say that rule should be even stricter – they'd like to prohibit teens from driving after 8 p.m., and raise the permit age from 15 to 16.

Another new law limits teen drivers to just one teenage rider for the first six months and three for the next six months, a rule that critics also say should be made stricter.

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