The story is a familiar one: on Saturday night, a car with a teen driver and passenger crossed the center line of a road and smashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle. Both drivers and their passengers were listed in serious condition at a St. Louis hospital.

Law enforcement officials do not yet know why the 17-year-old driver lost control of her vehicle. While the cause of this crash is still unclear, we know that in many auto accidents involving injuries and teenagers, investigators will look at several of the usual suspects: excess speed, impairment and distractions.

According to researchers, auto crashes are the leading cause of death among American teenagers. About seven teens per day between the ages of 16 and 19 lose their lives every single day from injuries sustained in violent motor vehicle collisions.

Those teen drivers are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers who are age 20 and above, according to KidsLiveSafe.com.

Our youth (people ages 15 to 24) currently constitutes 14 percent of the U.S. population, but accounts for nearly one third of the total costs of car accident injuries among females. The car accident death rate for male drivers and passengers is nearly twice as high as the rate for females.

“Anytime you have immaturity combined with inexperience, you have the potential for disaster,” a spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. “And that’s what you get with a 16-year-old behind the wheel.”

Far too often, speed combines with impairment or distraction – and sometimes both – to create a recipe for tragedy that includes innocent motorists and passengers harmed by reckless teen drivers.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash caused by a distracted or impaired driver, contact an attorney experienced in personal injury and wrongful death litigation.