Local News

Johnston County to Teen Drivers: ‘Slow Down and Live’

Posted November 10, 2007

— In the first nine months of this year, nine teens died on Johnston County roads – an alarming rate, according to authorities.

Most of the deaths were blamed on speeding or reckless driving. State Highway Patrol troopers say a number of factors contributed to the fatal accidents.

Johnston County is growing, and more people are on the roads, officials said. Also, many of the accidents happened on secondary, two lane roads where there is very little room for error.

Wade Stewart knows the pain of losing a child.

“I keep my son’s picture in my visor to keep him close to me,” he said. “In late September of his senior year, Lance was killed in a single car accident. He ran off the road, flipped his car, and we lost him.”

Stewart, who lost his son 15 years ago, says the pain never goes away. It just lessens over time.

“My heart goes out to the parents who lose children in any way, but when I read about accidents on a highway, I do shiver,” Stewart said.

Teens dying on Johnston County roadways this year are part of an unsettling State Highway patrol statistic. The two teens who died in the latest crash in September were among nine this year alone. Statewide, 106 teens have died in car wrecks so far this year, according to the Highway Patrol, with 15 deaths in the Triangle.

“Our county is number one in teen deaths, and it’s not something we’re proud of,” said Capt. David Daughtry, with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

That's why the sheriff's office has a special unit on patrol as part of Operation Safe Teens. Deputies have been staking out rural roads around Johnston County high schools watching for teens violating the speed limit.

In a four day span, deputies wrote 57 warning citations to teens for speeding.

“We’ve clocked a couple of vehicles running 80 miles an hour in and around the schools,” Daughtry said.

One teen clocked at that rate was driving partially on the wrong side of the road and told deputies he was messing with his radio, Daughtry said.

“It’s not about writing citations,” said Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell. “It’s about partnering with our teens, partnering with our youth and saying, ‘Hey, slow down and live, guys.’”

For now, deputies are only writing warning citations to teens. Daughtry said he has noticed a change in students' driving habits since deputies have been on patrol.


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  • Hans_Dieter_Peter Nov 11, 2007

    Oh, just to make a sidenote on the Autobahn. On most of the Autobahn, there is a speed limit. There are just too many cars. Some of the roads even have "adaptive" speed limits. They are pretty cool, but you have to watch for them to change in different sections. It's all in hopes to reduce the dreaded event known as "der Stau"... the traffic jam... oh bad memories. It's like being on I-40 with a 6-10 backup. No fun. And yes, there has been a move to put a speedlimit on the whole thing, but that has not been too successful. Chancellor Merkel was explicitly against it (who has turned out to be rather green minded... even for a German!) and from my observations, I don't think they will do it for the next bit. They love those things too much, although to be honest, it would make no difference to most. The vast majority (like 95%) are travelling around 140-160kmh (85mph+/- to 100+/-) anyway. And even with that, most are nearer to the 140kmh mark.

  • twc Nov 10, 2007

    Back in the 70s I remember pressure being put on car companies to stop commercials promoting high performance automobiles!!

    Today I see over and over and over commercials promoting speed and performance; the so-called rebirth of muscle cars.

    Look on any high school parking lot and you will see the evidence! Watch tv an hour or so a day and you will see the commercials.

    Those promotions are a major contributor to teen and other young adult auto accidents! Until there is an outcry the accidents will continue at their excessive rates!

    Become aware of the message those commercials send! And stop believing that your son or daughter will drive responsibly when they have that awesome sport vehicle with its awesome power! Our kids are worth more than that! But we have to help them past their learning years!

  • dcatz Nov 10, 2007

    The problem is, the DMV will essentially hand a drivers license to anyone who breaths. When I took my driver's license test, some years ago, the "examiner" that was supposed to be testing my driving ability brought along a book and was focused on that rather than me.

    Driving is a privilege and not a right and the DMV needs to crack down on bad driving and set stricter requirements and testing procedures for obtaining a drivers license.

  • -info- Nov 10, 2007

    chill0913, I am truly sorry you lost a child and as a nurse I am truly sorry for the hundreds of calls I have made in my career, to ask a parent to come to the hospital. Insensitive, ok fair attacking me or anyone else doesnt change the facts of life or this certain story, and yes EVERY week I watch kids in a local high school leave rubber burning out in their bought cars , part of them with a cigarette in one hand and a cell phone in the other oh and a few with a joint and to be quite blunt madame you have NO idea who I have buried in my 53years.

  • lynddsy Nov 10, 2007

    i think the time teens have permits should be longer. they should have to drive a long time with a licensed driver. there is also what my grandfather called a speed modulator. it boiled down to a bolt in the floor board that allowed the car to go only so fast. i think that's what kept my uncle alive. i think they also make factory ones now too. i had a friend who lost her 16 year old daughter that was completely in the right and a drinking driver hit her head on. it's so sad to see what it does to a parent.

  • lizard Nov 10, 2007

    We need to start right here redefining these things. They are not "accidents" they are "crashes." Perhaps if the language were changed, peoples' opinions of what is important would change and these issues would be taken more seriously.

  • wsareweak Nov 10, 2007

    oldreb, not trying to be aruementative, just wanted clearification, I did not know where you were going

  • Ilaina Nov 10, 2007

    chill0913--I am so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine that kind of pain.

    It's not just kids making mistakes. I see plenty of rude adults that are breaking the laws with wreckless driving behavior.

    It needs to stop because too many people are dying or being maimed on our roadways. SLOW DOWN, and BE COURTEOUS drivers!

  • Nancy Nov 10, 2007

    "Info..psychobabble and Nancy... I find as a mother that has buried her 19 yr old son due to a car accident you comments very insensative."

    Being honest is not being insensitive - let's face it, impulsiveness, inexperience and yes, stupidity (they know better if they stop and think before acting) all play a roll in most teen auto deaths.

    In your son's case, it was clearly inexperience with overcorrection.

    Any one of those, or combinations of those three behaviors are the causes of almost all teen driving accidents.

  • oldrebel Nov 10, 2007

    re" wesareweak, to clarify any point I was trying to make is pointless it would seem since you evidentally are going to be argumentative. The Social Democrats have introduced a plan to limit the top speeds on the Autobahn, {which was oficially called the "Reichsautobahn" (Motorways of the Reich) when it first built in the 1930's. Now it's officially known as the "Bundesautobahn" (BAB) (Federal Motorway) but most of us know it as the "autobahn". The proposed limit? To reduce accidents and CO2 emissions, the limit would top out at 130 kilmoteters perhous, or 80 MPH...which incidentally seems to be the speed most people already drive here in the US not only on the interstates but on just about any roadway around. And incidentally, yes talking on the cell phone, eating while driving, being inattentive, being inexperienced all contributes to accidents...as does simple speed itself.