(State Farm Insurance) (State Farm Insurance)

Roadway crashes are the leading cause of deaths among teens aged 14-18, and the tragedy is magnified by the fact that many of the deaths could have been avoided if the kids had been smarter.

More than half of those who died weren’t wearing seat belts; in 35 percent of fatal crashes the driver was speeding; 12 percent of teen drivers were distracted at the time of the fatal crash; and more than 500 people died in crashes where teenage drivers had alcohol in their systems, according to statistics produced this month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The data dump came because NHTSA wants parents to talk with their teens about five key points: wear a seat belt, turn off the mobile device, don’t drive with teenage passengers, obey the speed limit, and don’t drink alcohol.

That’s good advice for drivers of any age, but NHTSA Administrator David Strickland points out that “Inexperience and immaturity, combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving, and other teen passengers contribute to the high fatality rate of teens involved in fatal crashes.”

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.