A photo of Angelia Dominguez, 16, in a memorial at...

A photo of Angelia Dominguez, 16, in a memorial at the scene of the Old Brookville crash that killed her and injured three other teens in the car. Credit: Howard Schnapp

In the past few weeks, Long Islanders have been served with heartbreaking reminders that some of New York's driving laws exist to protect our youngest drivers, those most in need of protecting. Often, it's their own impulses and inexperience from which they need protection.

Angelia Dominguez, a beloved 16-year-old honors student at Seaford High School, was killed when she lost control of a 2008 Nissan at 3:37 on a Sunday morning. She was driving, and by doing so, was apparently violating the state's motor vehicle law in several ways. Her restricted license allowed her to drive only from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. unless there was a licensed 21-year-old in the car. Even if she met those rules, she was only permitted to drive to work or school. And she could never drive with more than one passenger under 21 in the car besides family members.

Dominguez was driving west on the dark and winding Chicken Valley Road in Old Brookville. With her were three boys, ages 14, 15 and 16, all of them Hicksville High School students, all of them injured.

Let's also remember Cem Gunes, 16, of Holtsville; Taylor Beltramini, 17, of Moriches; and Landon Kromhout Auditore, 18, of Mastic. All three were killed on Dec. 20 when the 2009 Infiniti that Gunes was driving left Nicolls Road and slammed into a stand of trees, police say. The crash happened at 9:47 p.m., according to accident reports.

That means Gunes apparently was breaking the same laws as Dominguez during their deadly drives.

These are tragedies almost beyond reckoning. These two teen drivers — and their fellow victims — will never hug a parent, dance at their weddings, make new friends, or contribute to their communities. They don't get a second chance to learn about the rules of when they can drive.

But we can educate ourselves and each other about the wisdom of these laws.

These are not draconian restrictions on young drivers but laws that are sane and sensible and fair and necessary. Teens are easily distracted and lack the years of motoring experience that would allow them to drive competently when fatigued late at night, to know when to sing along with friends and when not to, to understand that their principal responsibility as a driver is to focus on the road, and to realize that traversing dark and winding roads requires extra concentration.

Teens need to follow these laws. And parents need to make sure their kids, and those who drive their kids, are following them, too. Long Island has seen, all too often and all too well, the horrifying results that can occur when young, inexperienced drivers get in over their heads while behind the wheel.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.