CLAYTON, N.C. — Wednesday's crash in Johnston County involving high school students is a wake-up call for parents. Leah Boykin, 17, died and two other students, Christine Chicco and the driver, 16-year-old Brandy Lee, were seriously injured. Chicco is in fair condition and Lee has been upgraded to good condition at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville.
Eyewitnesses say the car carrying the students lost control and hit a car driven by 62-year-old Lonnie Locklear. Locklear was treated and released from Johnston Memorial Hospital. The N.C. Highway Patrol said the investigation is still not complete. No charges have been filed in the crash.
Kathy Smith's 15-year-old son, a student at Clayton High School, is due to get his driver's license in June. Wednesday's crash is making her think more about what kind of driver he will be.
"My primary concern is his safety, that he be a responsible driver and follow the rules outline for safe and responsible driving," said Smith.
That's where North Carolina's Graduated Driving Law comes in. It says before they get their license, teens can only have one passenger in the car under 21 who is not a relative. The UNC Highway Safety Research Center says the law is working. Since it went into effect, crashes involving multiple teen passengers are down 42 percent for 16-year-old drivers and 23 percent for 17-year-old drivers.
In Wednesday's crash, the Highway Patrol says the driver, Lee, recently received her full license. She was legally allowed to carry multiple teen passengers. But the law aside, statistics show the more passengers in a car, the more likely a teen driver will be distracted and involved in a wreck.
"It's sad when someone cold have taken a few precautions and prevented the death of a person on the highway." said Lt. Everett Clendenin.
Students at Clayton High School and at Johnston Community College, where the teens were taking classes, are grieving. School officials said the crash is a reminder that promoting safe driving among teens is everyone's responsibility.
"It is a collaborative effort. The message needs to come from the schools to be careful as well as from the parents," said Crystal Roberts, spokesperson for the Johnston County School System.