High schools, Highway Patrol prepare for prom season with safety campaign

Posted April 20, 2015

— At Heritage High School in Wake Forest and across the state Monday, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol launched a safe driving program aimed at teen drivers who, troopers say, are over-represented in fatal crashes.

"Operation: Drive to Live" is timed to coincide with the beginning of prom season. It includes stepped up enforcement of traffic laws around schools and reminders of the consequences of speed, texting and other distractions that can lead to accidents, injuries and even deaths.

The experience resonated with Amanda Dougles, who got her license just two weeks ago.

"It was hard to keep the speed limit because the speed limit had to be 25," she said.

According to the Highway Patrol, speed is the leading cause of fatal crashes involving teens. Distractions, from texting to the conversations of friends in the car, can also steer teens toward tragedy.

Patrol Commander Col. Bill Grey told students at Heritage High that they can police each other to stay safe.

When a friend texts and drives, "Be enough of a friend to step in, speak up and stop them," Grey said. "Look after each other."

Senior Trevor Telenko said the simulator sealed it for him.

"You can't just focus on yourself. You have to focus on what everybody else is doing, and having any other distractions would just make that worse," he said.

Over the past year, the patrol investigated almost 49,000 wrecks involving drivers and passengers who were between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Those collisions involved 113 deaths, including Braden Rock, 15, a Heritage High student killed in a three-car crash on the way to school in September.

Almost 9,200 teens were injured in car accidents last year, including three others in the car with Rock: his 17-year-old sister, Faith, who was driving, and two 16-year-old passengers, Skyla Kirby and Katie Williams.

That accident was fresh in the minds of Telenko and others as they stepped into the simulator.

"I would hope that it taught a lot of us a lesson: Just to be careful about driving," he said.


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