By Mary McGuire

ROSEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — Over the past decade, motor vehicle crashes have been the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for teens and young adults in Minnesota.

The “Toward Zero Deaths” campaign aims to change that statistic, and stakeholders came together Wednesday to discuss ways to keep drivers safe.

Engineers, law enforcement, education and emergency medical personnel got a look at the way teens make decisions and how that impacts decisions made on the road.

During our teenage years, the part of the brain that looks at the consequences in certain situations is effectively under construction.

In turn, that makes teenagers more likely to engage in risky behaviors on the road, especially when it comes to texting and driving.

“When we hear that buzz and we hear that ring, we get a little surge of dopamine, a happy chemical, it makes us really want to check and figure out what’s going on and answer that text,” said Erin Walsh, of Mind Positive Parenting. “That’s a challenge for adults…that’s a bigger task for an adolescent, whose impulse control is growing and developing.”

If you are a parent with a teenage driver, Walsh suggests leading by example and putting your phone in the back seat while driving or handing your phone to a passenger to type out a message if it really can’t wait.

Another issue brought up Wednesday was the number of injuries and deaths on Minnesota roads.

From 2003 to 2016, there was a 40 percent decrease in overall traffic-related deaths, but for the past 5 years, there was less than a 1 percent reduction, showing virtually no change.

That means organizers are now seeing the start of a plateau and that new ways to spread awareness are still needed.

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