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Forum focuses on Johnston teen driving deaths

Posted November 14, 2008

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— Elected officials, law enforcement officers, school representatives, students, parents, state Department of Transportation officials, firefighters and emergency services providers came together Thursday evening to talk about stopping the trend of teenage drivers dying on Johnston County roads.

The county leads the state in the number of 15- to 24-year-olds who die in in automobile crashes. Last year, 11 teenagers died in car wrecks.

Several more have died this year, including Christy Baker's son.

“It would be a living hell on this earth,” she told the group about living without each person's child.

Brandon Baker, 21, and his best friend, Matthew Stewart, 17, were killed in a collision on Fellowship Church Road in September. The state Highway Patrol says another teen driver was speeding.

"We have got to stop that. We have got to show them this is reality, this is what can happen,” Baker said.

In the last three years, nearly 30 young people have died on Johnston County roads. Last year, drivers 21-years-old and under were cited for more than 500 driving while impaired charges, 1,400 seat-belt violations and more than 7,000 instances of speeding, troopers said.

"Somehow, we have just got to get a grip,” County Commissioner Tony Braswell said.

Smithfield Mayor Norman Johnson helped organize a four-hour Alive at 25 program earlier this month at town hall. Speakers addressed drinking and driving and talking and texting behind the wheel. The group was also shown images of real accident scenes.

“Teen drivers have so many distractions,” Braswell said.

There is also a growing population driving on small roads where it can be hard to maneuver a vehicle.

"You have a lot of rural roads with a lot of volume on them,” said DOT state traffic engineer Kevin Lacy.

The forum Thursday night focused on more safe driving initiatives, like a new program in Johnston County schools that would require more driver training. Parking passes at high schools would be suspended for speeding tickets and seat-belt violations.

Deputies would also tighten patrols around school events. There was also a push for improvements to county roads and adding rumble strips near intersections.

The Alive at 25 program is free for anyone 16 to 19, though each student has to pay $5.50 for instructional materials. The town is offering two more classes – on Nov. 18 and Dec. 9. To register, or for more information, contact the town at 919-934-2116.

The course is also available through the Safety and Health Council of North Carolina at 17 community colleges across the state, including Raleigh, Clinton, Charlotte and Wilmington. More information is available by calling 919-209-2213. The cost is $50.


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  • news4u Nov 14, 2008

    Teens may apply for Permit at 17 if accompanied by Parent/Guardian.

    Graduated licensing.

    More classroom and driving instruction.

    Have an adult who has lost a teen address the class.

    Seatbelts required. (Too many teens are ejected)

    No other teens or children may ride with the teen.

    No cell phone in use while the teen's vehicle is in motion.

    No alcohol. (Duh - but it IS happening)

    No driving before 6am and after 9pm.

    Teens must complete an emergency vehicle operations class that teaches defensive driving and maneuvers to control a vehicle under various speed and weather conditions.

    I realize these are desperate measures but these are desperate times.

    Teens should not be going to their classmates' funerals.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Nov 14, 2008

    Speaking of driving. The weather is not good right now. Its raining. So everyone please be careful as you return home or go else where. Just be safe and watch out for the careless drive. Have a good weekend to all of you including WRAL staff. :)

  • Dr. Dataclerk Nov 14, 2008

    so these teenagers feel they have to go buckwild behind their parents' backs.

    Thats exactly what is happening. The children are fooling their parents daily. The parents think they know exactly what their children are doing. Not unless you are face to face. Better start now checking on your children, parents. Their bedroom is a part of your house, go in there and check every nook and corners and drawers even the closet. You might be amazed what you might find that the child did not want the parent to know about.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Nov 14, 2008

    kebonham, um they have NO drinking ages in much of Europe. What are you talking about? And you can drink in public there. A good Belgian friend of mine sent a picture of her in hometown street sipping a beer you couldn't even buy in NC because the alcohol was more than 6%. She laughed at us calling ourselves "free" when we have many more laws than than they do.

  • keeter Nov 14, 2008

    European countries, for example Germany & Belgium, have MUCH tougher driver training and their accident statistics reflect this. Hmmm...

    Those are the same countries that have lower than 21 drinking ages in order to teach responsible consumption of alcohol at a early age, instead of shunning it so these teenagers feel they have to go buckwild behind their parents' backs.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Nov 14, 2008

    The drivers are usually young and inexperienced.

    The blame of should not be put on the young drivers. How many older driver has "all" this experience people keep talking about. If everyone would put away the cell-phone and other distractions and obey the speed limit and other rules of the road, it would be safer for anyone to be on the road driving. Adults be a good example for the young kids to follow on the road when driving.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Nov 14, 2008

    Why are they making the desicions to drink and drive or drive erractically

    Maybe the kids are following the pattern of seeing their parents indulge in alcoholic beverage. When they observe this in the home, the children grow thinking that it is OK to do it to. How about all that alcohol stored in unlocked cabinet, parents? We need more responsible parents in doing the right thing for their children.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Nov 14, 2008

    I find it interestiing the many kids that are not wearing seat belts. This is discovered after a wreck has occured. Parents are you aware your license daughter or son is not wearing their seat-belt thinking it makes them cool? Well, it is not cool to see them laying in a coffin, is it? I suggest you tighten up on the rules in their driving since they are still living in your house.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Nov 14, 2008

    Make kids more responsible by not allowing ipods and cell phones while driving. Adults need to do this too. It don't take much to be distracted. Joking and playing around while driving. Kids need to be as serious about driving like the the first day they went to get their driving license when the highway patrol officer was in the car with them. Yes, I agree to much carelessness on the highway. The young is dying just as well as the old. Young people obey the rules of the road. Don't listen to your friends if it is going to put you and them in danger. Be safe!

  • KEB59 Nov 14, 2008

    I drive by the accident scene on Buffalo Rd every day. It encourages me drive the right way and stop taking life and the privleges that I have - including time with my child - for granted.