DENVER (KDVR) — According to Colorado State Patrol, 61 teen drivers have died in the state so far this year, and that is a 53% increase from this time last year.

Those numbers are shocking to the family of Sammie Caflisch. Sammie was in a car crash in Parker in July 2020 and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

She died the day after her 15th birthday.

“Because she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt, she was ejected from the vehicle. The kids that were in the car that had their seatbelt on actually didn’t even have to go to the hospital, had no injuries,” said Sammie’s aunt, Shelly Gibson.

Sammie’s death was crushing for her family.

“Sammie was just a very spunky, ornery young lady,” Gibson said. “She had so much life ahead of her and was just so much fun.”

Seatbelt use linked to deadly teen crashes

Now her family runs the Sammie’s Sunshine foundation. They help other families after crashes and go into schools to help with driver safety weeks. Their message is powerful.

“It really didn’t look like that bad of an accident, and had she had her seatbelt on, life could be very different right now,” Gibson said.

According to Colorado State Patrol, the most common citations for teens are speeding, careless driving and not wearing a seatbelt.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has some tips for parents.

  • Know the laws and enforce them with teens. 
  • Address cell phone use in the car.
  • Be a role model with your own driving habits.
  • Promote responsible choices, like no driving while impaired.

The majority of teens involved in fatal crashes nationwide are unbuckled, as Sammie was. Her family hopes others will make different choices.

“Kids have to buckle up,” Gibson said.