Johnston County urges teens to teach each other about safe driving
Posted September 21, 2011
Smithfield, N.C. — Johnston County officials and school leaders kicked off a teen driving safety campaign Wednesday that encourages teens to talk with each other about the importance of buckling up, slowing down and being smart behind the wheel.
The county has long had one of the highest numbers of teen auto fatalities in the state; 40 teens have died in car wrecks since 2005. Seat belts weren't used in 44 percent of those wrecks.
County and school leaders have tried multiple initiatives in the last decade to get the safety message to stick with new drivers, but say they are confident this school year.
"I think it's pretty cool that the kids themselves have embraced it," said NASCAR driver Kyle Petty, who was the keynote speaker at the kickoff luncheon. "There's been so many deaths in this county from traffic fatalities for teenagers that this is an important thing."
Linda Carroll, who heads the county's teen driving committee, said she feels good about the peer-to-peer approach used in this year's safety campaign.
"What's going to make this work are teens – teens leading other teens in their school to make smarter decisions, to make it cool to drive with their seat belts on," Carroll said.
County and school leaders also said they've stepped up their efforts over the last year to urge state lawmakers to put stricter guidelines and better training in place for teen drivers.
Princeton High School senior Adryan Joyner said he got involved with the county's efforts after he lost a classmate in a car wreck two years ago. Students like him are being paired up with school and county leaders and participating in training sessions so they can relay important driving information to their classmates. They've also produced a public service announcement to promote safety in the driver's seat.
"We're inexperienced drivers and we all need experience, to be told to be safe," Joyner said.
The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles announced Wednesday that it will require new drivers to log more than 72 hours behind the wheel before being granted a full driver's license, starting in January.
Teen drivers must first turn in a signed log documenting 60 hours in the driver's seat under a parent's supervision and then a second log with an additional 12 hours of driving, including six hours at night.