Local News

Mary Easley Helps Launch Safe-Driving Initiative for Teens

Posted December 10, 2007

— For 17-year-old Melissa Willis, a simple car ride is reason for hesitation.

"It takes my breath away every time," the high school senior said.

That's because of what happened in August 2006, when she was behind the wheel in a fatal accident in which two friends traveling with her died.

"I honestly don't have any memory, any recollection of that day," she said.

Willis' mother, Michelle Willis, says her daughter still lives with that guilt, which is "unbearable at times."

The North Carolina Highway Patrol says vehicle accidents have killed 22 teenagers in the Triangle this year. Since 2004, 530 teens have died on state roadways.

That's why First Lady Mary Easley and state and local law enforcement officials launched a statewide safety initiative, Operation Drive to Live, that is aimed at reducing traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities among teen drivers.

"We have to stop these senseless deaths," Easley said, reminding teens not to speed and not to drink.

According to the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, speed is the leading cause of teenage traffic deaths. Many crashes involving teenage drivers occur during their commutes to and from high school.

That's why troopers will be enforcing traffic laws around schools and conducting traffic safety education programs this month in high schools in Wake, Wayne, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Durham, Franklin, Chatham, Lee and Harnett counties.

"(Traffic-related deaths) can happen, and unfortunately, it happened to us," said Barbara Mya, whose daughter, Emily, was in the car with Melissa Willis.

"I pray this campaign will prevent this from happening to other families," she said.


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  • OhYea Dec 11, 2007

    Want to save lives of 16 and 17 year olds? Raise the driving age to 18. We have the sense of a box of hammers letting 16 year olds drive automobiles. And yea, I did it and my kids did it. I know what I am talking about.

  • CantTrustV Dec 11, 2007

    Hope this works.

  • roadtrash Dec 11, 2007

    1911...I love your cynicism. SHP announces something may improve safety around school zones and you immediately want to criticize it. Nice dig at RPD too....we all appreciate your support.

  • medbilling Dec 11, 2007

    I watched the clip on this story last night. I was slightly disturbed because it seemed to be more focused on the Willis family. Obviously, she survived. What about the Mya's and the Heider's (and all other teenage families) that wake up every morning and go to bed at night without their babies; not to mention the holidays. Wouldn't it make more sense to listen to what they have to say? Mrs. Mya spoke for 5 seconds???? It certainly would make a larger impact for teens to realize the "loss" as opposed to a surviver who has no "recollection"? It must have been extremely difficult for Mrs. Mya hearing and seeing Melissa and her mother. Did the reporters not have any regards to her feelings. I personally think this blurb was cold and could have been put together a little better. You didn't even show pictures of the teens that died....how did their families feel? Please respond.

  • bosoxbaby Dec 11, 2007

    Maybe in addition to some of the other suggestions here make it so that parents can't buy their kids anything over a 4 cylinder. Not saying you can't speed on a 4 cylinder but you certainly don't have as much gettyup and go on a 4 cylinder thereby reducing the amount of "showing off". I'm all for making sure kids have a dependable vehicle in their daily travels but I don't think a sports car like a brand new Mustang or a $40,000 SUV is appropriate for them either. I live across the street from a high school and man these kids drive vehicles that are way better than mine. Wonder where their parents work?? Obviously I need to get the jobs they have!!!

  • The Rock Dec 11, 2007

    The Rock says this is exactly what teens across the state are looking for. A safe driving initiative! Now they're really is a reason to party this weekend, they can celebrate this wonderful news!

  • 1911 Dec 11, 2007

    I think it is pretty comical to see that the Troopers will start to patrol around schools for speeders. I take a child to Millbrook High everyday day and the only law enforcement I have ever seen is a Raleigh Police Officer speeding through the school zones. This initiative is nice but it apparently just looks good on paper. Kudos to Mrs. Easley for at least saying the right things.

  • Steve Crisp Dec 11, 2007

    Of course mothers can teach their kids how to drive. But in single family households where the dad is missing, the mother is generally beat after working two jobs. How is she going to put in the hours to properly teach her kid? No, she generally leaves it up to the morons in the school system and their inane driver's ed course.

  • mt1190 Dec 11, 2007

    its not just teens. its the dumb people who are in a hurry going no ware and the old people with the mexicans trust me its not all teens.

  • firstgenchevy Dec 11, 2007

    "speed is the leading cause of teenage traffic deaths"

    Speed is the number one cause of ANY traffic death. If you are going 0 mph in your drive way...you think your going to die?

    You are just as likely to get hurt or killed if your 45 or 75.

    The speed doesn't matter, iiiiif your paying attention. Safe driving means paying attention to whats going on around you. Thats it. Thats all there is too it.