Though the posted speed limit is 20 m.p.h., George said she knows that a lot of people take Oak Ridge Avenue too fast, and she herself had almost lost control over the railroad crossing on the quiet, residential street in Hillside.

George''s granddaughter, Daishawn Morris, 16, was driving five other teens on that road Tuesday afternoon when she lost control of her car and crashed into a tree, killing herself and friend Corrine Anderson, 16, and injuring four other students.

Three mistakes commonly made by inexperienced drivers--speeding, overcrowding the car and not wearing seat belts--all contributed to the deadly 3:20 p.m. crash, police said.

Crash data show that the hours just before and after school are particularly risky for teen drivers. Speed is the leading factor in teen driving fatalities. Nationally, it was a factor in more than a third of all fatal accidents involving teens in 2004.

The Hillside crash was a grim reminder that teens continue to have the lowest rate of seat-belt use. When another teenager is driving, the percentage of teens wearing seat belts drops to 42 percent among males and 52 percent among females, according to a 2002 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The fact that Morris had five teen passengers in the car made it about three times more likely that she would be in a fatal accident, according to research done by Johns Hopkins University.

Morris, who got her license in June, had just driven the group, all juniors at Proviso West High School, to Wendy''s on Roosevelt Road to grab a quick bite before they headed back to school for flag and dance team practices. They were supposed to perform at a pre-show at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., this weekend.

Morris drove down Oak Ridge Avenue to avoid traffic on Mannheim Road. She appeared to have crossed over the railroad tracks too fast, causing the car to go airborne, said Hillside Police Chief Joseph Lukaszek.

When the vehicle came down, the unbelted passengers in the back fell forward, pushing the driver into the steering wheel and dashboard and her foot likely heavier on the accelerator, he said. The car hurtled forward out of control and struck a tree about 270 feet from the tracks at about 65 m.p.h., he said. The car caught on fire, and two people had to be extricated from it, authorities said.

Lukaszek said he doesn''t think Morris was horsing around or intentionally tried to jump the tracks.

"She was just going too fast on a street she didn''t know that well," he said.

1 of 6 in the car wore seat belt

Morris was the only occupant wearing a seat belt, he said.

Neither alcohol nor drugs was a factor in the crash, police said, but under state law, there were too many teens in the car.

Drivers younger than 18 who have been licensed for less than six months cannot carry more than one unrelated passenger younger than 20. The law was intended to limit some of the distractions that are blamed for crashes involving young drivers.

The four other passengers--three girls and a boy who were members of the band, flag and dance teams--were taken to local hospitals. Two were released Tuesday evening, and two 16-year-old girls remained in the hospital in stable condition.

Passenger Lureise Billings, 16, of Berkeley remained hospitalized in Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, but her mother said Wednesday from her daughter''s hospital room that "she''s going to make a full recovery."

Billings had just been told Monday that she made the majorette team, and was on her way to her first practice, her family members and coach said.

George, 62, who helped to raise her granddaughter, said her husband taught Morris how to drive and they always warned her not to take too many passengers.

"Just one, I told her," said George from her Bellwood home, where friends and other family members gathered Wednesday morning. "But you know teenagers. You turn your back and they do what they want to."

George said she doesn''t believe her granddaughter was speeding Tuesday afternoon. Friends called the girl "grandma" because she drove so slowly, and she was afraid of getting onto the expressway because drivers there drove too fast, her grandmother said.

"She''s not a speeder. My husband trained her well," George said.

At Proviso West, students hugged and comforted each other in the hallways Wednesday, some weeping. Grief counselors and ministers came to the school to help.

Later in the afternoon, about 75 students, teachers, pastors and Anderson''s family members gathered at the tree where the car crashed. Teddy bears, posters, photographs and signed T-shirts adorned the tree. The mourners sang "Amazing Grace," held hands and prayed, many in tears.

Family members remembered Morris as a girl quick to flash a big smile, a good student who liked math, English and history, but hated gym. She was loud and an occasional jokester who wanted to be a pediatrician or a gynecologist some day, her grandmother said. She joined the ROTC her freshman year.

Morris joined the school''s flag team her freshman year and was going to be a captain, said her coach, Ami Relf. Corrine Anderson was a majorette on the school''s dance team since her freshman year and was going to be a co-captain of that team, Relf said.

"They were both my leaders, my girls," Relf said.

Anderson''s father, Carlos Anderson, said his daughter, one of two children, was a happy teen who had just gotten a job at the AMC theater in Lombard and wanted to save up money to get her license and a car.

Teen aspired to design clothes

Corrine Anderson loved to dance, listen to music and surf the Internet and had just started taking a clothing design class at the high school, her father said. She was thinking about designing clothes some day, he said. He had just recently been giving his daughter driving lessons and recalled how he reminded her to put on her seat belt and be cautious.

"She was a very happy, very spunky type of individual," her father said at his home in Hillside on Wednesday, his eyes welling with tears. His other daughter, who is 15 and also attends Proviso, went to school Wednesday to be with friends and see a counselor. "It''s kind of hard for all of us right now."

Some of Morris'' family members visited his family Tuesday night to offer their condolences, Anderson said.

"We have no anger at all," he said. "They came over and hugged us. They were very loving people. We''re just all praying for the best and hoping we can make it through this."

He said if there was anything he hoped other teens took from this tragedy, it was simply to be more careful.

"It''s important to be safe," he said. "Just try to keep yourself out of harm''s way."