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Johnston's targeted programs reduce teen traffic fatalities

Posted September 30, 2014

— After 11 teens died in crashes in Johnston County in 2007, parents and school officials took action, creating various programs to better train teen drivers.

In high schools across Johnston County, students now spread the message about safe driving under the Johnston County Teen Drivers program. Ten students from each school are selected to educate classmates about staying safe on the road.

"Teens are more likely to listen to the kids that they hang out with instead of their parents or other adults," Teen Drivers participant Matt Cherry said Tuesday.

They put up signs in the halls to show how far someone can travel when they take their eyes off the road for just a second.

"You go 88 feet in one second going 55 mph in a car," Cherry said.

The county also launched the StreetSafe program, which gives teens a hands-on experience with real-life obstacles. Anyone under 21 who is ticketed for any offense is required to take the course.

Teen traffic fatalities are more than just numbers at West Johnston High School in Benson, where the names of friends and classmates and the years in which they died are on a memory bench outside of the school.

Yvette Davis, a teacher at West Johnston High, knows all too well the dangers of teens behind the wheel. Her 13-year-daughter, Alyssa Heider, was riding with a friend who ran a stop sign and collided with a pickup in August 2006.

"I will never forget that doctor's expression when she looked me in the eye and said, 'If we can't get the swelling down (in her brain), she will die,'" Davis said. "She died two days before her 14th birthday."

A 16-year-old passenger in the car also died. The 16-year-old driver, who survived, wasn't supposed to have young passengers drivers in her car.

Davis now shares her story with other parents and students through the Alive at 25 program, which is mandatory for students before they start driver's education in Johnston County.

"I feel as if parents everywhere need to know that they're the keeper of the keys," she said. "They do have the power to say, 'No, you will not transport other kids.'"

Last year, there was only one traffic-related fatality involving a teen in Johnston County.

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  • mlmclaughlin9 Sep 30, 2014

    A man was speaking about this on the radio this morning and he cautioned other, more experienced drivers to SLOW DOWN. That is a good sentiment, it really is. However, I think there is more that factors into all these accidents. There are too many distractions for drivers, whether they're teens or adults. It is hard to multi-task normally let alone while you're driving. I don't know what kind of solution there is for this. I think it's a tough one. We can't take away their cell phones or their freedoms. We have to trust that they make the right decisions.