Sami Wilson has attended the funerals of seven friends in the past two years. She’s 17 years old.
Wilson is a senior at Princeton High School, which has been particularly hard hit by traffic deaths involving teenagers.
”You kind of just get used to the feeling of a funeral around here,” Wilson told the Star Tribune.
But it’s not just a problem in this one Minnesota city. No state in the country has a higher percentage of teenagers behind the wheel in deadly crashes than Minnesota.
Teens were driving in 18.4 percent of Minnesota’s fatal traffic accidents from 2004 to 2006, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The national average was 14.3 percent.
Roughly every five days, a Minnesota teen dies in a traffic crash. Already this month, a 17-year-old died without a seat belt in a head-on crash in Winona County, while another 17-year-old crossed the center line and collided head-on with a bus in southeastern Morrison county, killing a 53-year-old driver.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently gave Minnesota and nine other states a marginal grade because they don’t limit teenage riders and night driving.
Many states, including Wisconsin, prohibit 16-year-olds from carrying more than one passenger or driving after midnight. In the last year, legislatures in Illinois, Ohio and Idaho tightened night driving or passenger laws for teen drivers.