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WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 24, 2012, 10:28 PM

Rash of teenage traffic fatalities has many asking why

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The latest fatality brings the number of teenage deaths on area roads in the past four days alone to six. The safety scare is raising concern. What is leading to the drastic spike in deaths among young drivers?

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

The latest fatality brings the number of teenage deaths on area roads in the past four days alone to six. The safety scare is raising concern. What is leading to the drastic spike in deaths among young drivers?

They are the same stories day after day: news outlets devoting time to teenage deaths. Six killed on area roads since Monday.

Paul Conlin – Safety Advocate: “It's not an accident. It's a crash. It's a fatality. Something went wrong along the way and a choice was made that led to the final outcome.”

Safety advocate Paul Conlin says the startling trend needs to be attacked differently. For starters, what people say. The term "accident" takes away accountability.

Paul Conlin: “The car doesn't itself drive into a dangerous situation.”

Jason Balvik – Police Officer/Driving Instructor: “We deal with the crashes. We deal with the deaths, but it's always somewhat of a surprise when you have this many in this short period of a time.”

A new report shows driving deaths among 16 and 17 year olds jumped 11 percent, the first part of 2011. They had been down for 8 years.

Jason Balvik: “You're really not gaining that much more time by speeding.”

Driving instructors argue many teens aren't experienced enough to handle a large vehicle. They may not be trained to drive on icy roads.

Jason Balvik: “Just because somebody has a driver’s license doesn't mean they necessarily need to be on the road all those times.”

Part of the responsibility lies in parents. They need to decide if their children understand the seriousness of bad habits.

Paul Conlin: “Consequences come too late. We can't legislate this problem away. You're not going to be able to come up with another law.”

Law enforcement is doing its job, but for Conlin it's about choices. He says 90% of crashes should not even happen.

Paul Conline: “I get emotional when I start talking about this stuff, because I've seen what it does to families and it's a pain that never goes away, but they are preventable.> “

Balvik actually recommends teenagers drive with a parent partway into a ditch or on icy roads. That way they know what to do during such incidents. Another idea is to visit a hospital or talk to crash victims to see what can happen.

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