COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Teen vehicle fatalities were up 10 percent between 2011 and 2012 and state officials are trying to find out why.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said on Monday rates of motor vehicle crash deaths among 15- to 19-year-olds in Colorado dropped more than 67 percent between 2004 and 2011, but that has changed.
Department Policy Director Ali Maffey says education and tighter enforcement can reduce traffic deaths.
Sheyna Marshall, a Fountain police officer, hopes her personal story can help change the statistics.
In 2006, Marshall, her husband, two sons and daughter were involved in an accident caused by three teens racing. Her daughter's legs and nose were broken. Her son, Justin, suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Her 6-year-old son, Christian, died on impact.
Marshall is working with Drive Smart Colorado to share her story with teen drivers.
"Going to these high schools and seeing these kids' reactions, it's just brought honor to my sons," Marshall said.
"They see a picture of my son's hand hanging out the window when he died and I say 'This is the moment my child died,'" Marshall told KRDO NewsChannel 13. "It's personal, and I make sure they see how personal it is."
Marshall said her main message to teens is about decisions. She hopes teens will take a moment to consider each decision, like picking up a cellphone, and the potential impact it could have.
"They don't realize that one decision that they make could change everything in the game for them and for somebody else," she said.
Barb Bailey, program coordinator for Drive Smart Colorado, told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that the biggest factors in teen driving crashes are speeding and distracted driving.
"You might be the best driver in the world, but there are a lot of distracted drivers out there -- not just teenagers," Bailey said.
Bailey said that parents could be key in setting positive examples. In addition to teaching teens about safe driving, Drive Smart Colorado is also trying to educate parents on the Graduated Drivers Licensing laws.
A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment survey of 738 parents of teens throughout Colorado showed only 6.4 percent of parents could accurately identify components of Graduated Driver Licensing laws, including curfews, passenger restrictions and seat belt requirements.
In conjunction with National Teen Driver Safety Week -- Oct. 20-26 -- the Colorado Teen Driving Alliance launched a new online parent course providing step-by-step instructions on how parents can support their teens through the laws.