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Four Chicago-area teens die when car goes into creek

Parents of teenagers know what it means to worry. And among the dangers they know confront their children, car accidents rank high. Some Chicago-area parents got the worst news a parent can get recently.

Wilmington, Illinois, a small town on the Kankakee River about 50 miles from Chicago, recently mourned the deaths of four teenagers who died when their vehicle went off the road and plunged into a creek. The four were all between 15 and 17 years old.

The teens' parents began to get anxious when the kids did not come home from school on time. They called the police, formed search parties, and frantically searched social media for any clue to their children's whereabouts. They learned that after school the four had piled into the Mitsubishi Eclipse owned by one of them. The parents then experienced what must have been the longest night of their lives. It was not until the sun began to come up the next morning that they would learn the heartbreaking news.

A school bus driver had spotted a tire just breaking the surface of the water. The four kids were in the car, which had been upside down in the creek all night. The cause of the crash was unknown at the time this post was prepared, although authorities had begun an accident investigation. Some reports indicated there may have been ice on the road.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the death rate of teenagers in car accidents has declined by about two-thirds since the 1970s. In 1975, for example, there were about 9,000 deaths; in 2010 there were only about 3,000. But these statistics provide no comfort to the parents of those who died.

One of the reasons for the decline in teenage auto accident deaths may be that many states, including Illinois, have instituted graduated drivers' licenses. Illinois' law, among other things, provides that a driver in their first year of licensing can have only one passenger under age 20 in the car at a time. That law applied to the driver in this case, but tragically was disregarded.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Urgent search for 4 missing Wilmington teens ends in tragedy," Duaa Eldeib, Andy Grimm and Steve Schmadeke, March 12, 2013

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