Johnston County crackdown slowing student drivers
Posted October 28, 2011
Four Oaks, N.C. — Each day, Johnston County Sheriff's Deputy Charlotte Yeargin and fellow deputies patrol the roads around high schools in the county to help curb speeding among teens.
In past years, the county has struggled with North Carolina's second highest rate of teen fatalities in wrecks.
According to crash data from 2006 to 2010, 32 drivers ages 16-19 died on county roads, and of those fatal wrecks, 69 percent were speed-related – well above the statewide average of 57 percent.
Last year, three teens died, including South Johnston High School sophomore Jesse Ferrell.
Ferrell, 16, was on his way to school on April 28 when his truck collided with another on Hanna Creek Road. The next day, seven other students were involved in a wreck on the same road, outside the school's main entrance.
It's an area Yeargin often patrols.
"(Teen drivers) know when they come around the corner and they see a red or silver Camaro –they know who it is," she says. "They slow down, and that's the purpose."
It was wrecks, like Ferell's, that prompted the sheriff's office to start in April a countywide crackdown using unmarked cars to target school zones before and after school. Since then, deputies say, the number of speeding citations and warnings they have issued have quickly declined.
Yeargin says warning one student sends a message to all teen drivers to slow down and be safe.
"We want them to make smart decisions and wear their seat belts," she said. "I don’t want to have to call (parents) and say their kid was in an accident. I'd rather call and say, 'Hey, I stopped your kid from speeding. Can you talk to them, take care of this?' I don’t want to have to call them for something worse."
This year, two teens were killed in January but there have been no other fatalities. There have been wrecks, including one as recent as Saturday night in which four teens were injured in Clayton.
The state Highway Patrol say speed and alcohol were a factor in that wreck.