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The New York Times is running with a story today that should be read by all parents of teenagers.

For Teenagers, the Car Is the Danger Zone

Parents of teenagers worry about lots of things: drugs, sex, poor choices of friends. But the activity that causes the most harm to older teenagers is none of the above.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16- to 20-year-olds, with about 5,500 teenage drivers or passengers dying each year. In addition, about 450,000 teenagers are injured, 27,000 of them requiring hospitalization, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported in the December issue of its journal, Pediatrics.

Of those who are killed, 63 percent are drivers and 37 percent are passengers, with boys accounting for two-thirds of the fatalities. Although teenagers represent only 6 percent of drivers, they are involved in 14 percent of fatal crashes. And the crash rate among the youngest drivers — 35 crashes per million miles driven by 16-year-olds — is nearly nine times the rate of the general population.

The article offers some suggestions for concerned parents. Anything that would avoid the late night knock on the door by the Deputy Sheriff with terrible news is worth the effort.

My children are now mature adults with children of their own. They made it through the teenage driving years with only minor accidents. But, other parents in Tampa Bay have come to my law firm with tragic stories that underscore the need to do more than provide keys and insurance coverage to teenage drivers. And, the need to make teenage passengers more aggressive about driver misconduct.

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