Local News

Highway Patrol to educate teenagers about safe driving

Posted February 22, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— Traffic collisions are the leading cause of teenage deaths in North Carolina. In the last four years, 554 teenagers have been killed in crashes investigated by the state Highway Patrol. This week, troopers will be conducting "Operation Drive to Live" to reduce the number of teenage-related traffic collisions.

Some collisions involving teenage drivers occur during their commute to and from high school, and speed remains the leading cause of crashes.

Steven "Drew" Smith Mother remembers son killed in wreck

Speed was blamed for a crash last year that killed a Benson teen.

”I still look for Drew to come home,” mother Lisa Smith said.

Steven "Drew" Smith, 17, and Dennis Dewitt, also 17, were on their way to a turkey shoot when Dewitt's truck drove off Zacks Mill Road, near N.C. Highway 50, on October 31.

Smith died at the scene. Paramedics took Dewitt to WakeMed, where he was treated and released. Dewitt was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle and exceeding a safe speed.

Lisa Smith also claims that the vehicle's tires had no tread.

“People always say, 'Had I known then what I know now, Drew would not have been in the vehicle,'” Lisa Smith said.

Johnston County leads the state in the number of 15- to 24-year-olds who die in in automobile crashes. In 2007, 11 teenagers died in car wrecks.

Smithfield Mayor Norman Johnson helped organize a four-hour Alive at 25 program last year at town hall. Speakers addressed drinking and driving and talking and texting behind the wheel.

The Highway Patrol will lead similar safety education programs this week and will be enforcing traffic laws around the schools.

Lisa Smith said she wants teenagers to realize the privilege of driving comes with responsibility.

Life “can be snatched away from you at the drop of a hat,” she said.

In 2004, North Carolina ranked fifth in the nation for teenage-related automobile deaths.


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  • leo-nc Feb 23, 2009

    If they speed and meet the requirements for misdemeanor speeding, they're going to jail.

  • ccacrabbitdog Feb 23, 2009

    sorry mike just ain't buying that 1.......like i said n other posts its the parents not driver ed........i got about 5 years to retire....and i haven't seen anything but it getting worse...it will never end..to prove my point...i worked a double fatal with 2 teens ...everybody at the school boo hooed...but that same week 1 of my buddies got 1 of the kids from that school at 76 mph on a 2 lane road....kids think they r invincible.....

  • streetfightinman Feb 23, 2009

    Yes they need educating, it's called a ticket.

  • deidredlh Feb 23, 2009

    Is this a class they go around and present at the high schools, or do we sign up our kids? The information on the website is from 2007. There are no details on this program. How can we get our kids involved?

  • whatelseisnew Feb 23, 2009

    Not sure why we bother. After all preaching abstinence to teens does not work and neither does this. Just consider it Darwin at work

  • LocalYokel Feb 23, 2009

    thanks HP for providing the education! We need more of it and it should not be limited to teenagers.

  • familyfour Feb 23, 2009

    We lost a very respectable, well - rounded, goal oriented young man last week.....not a teen, but still young.....doesn't matter how responsible they are.....speed kills.....not wearing seatbelts kills......

    Everyone I know that has ever died in a vehicular accident was not wearing a seatbelt, and/or was going waaaaaay too fast. Had nothing to do with anything other than those two factors, and those are mistakes than anyone, and everyone make....

  • parr4246 Feb 23, 2009

    I would highly recommend the Alive at 25 Program for every parent and "new" driver. I went to the parents version of the Program that was set up through Apex High School and I sent my teenage daughter. It definitely helped my daughter. I'm not saying that she is the perfect driver 'cause she has only been driving for a year but it helped her tremendously.

  • superman Feb 23, 2009

    Do you really really think the kids will listen to someone if they dont listen to their own parents? Step 1, the parents should stop buying the kids their own cars. Step 2, quit buying them cell phones. Talking or texting while driving is about the same as driving while drinking. Any person-regardless of age who owns a cell phone should be required to pay an extra insurance premium. I rather take my chances with the drunk drivers on the road rather than the millions of people who drive talking on their cell phones.

  • Mike128 Feb 23, 2009

    Yes, we set up the the course in a large parking lot or race track. If it was dry, we sprayed a water/soap solution in the skid pad area and let the students drive... That's the point, it's practice in a controlled environment that is designed to be difficult to drive in. The worst that will happen is they run over some rubber cones. We also used special car that was fitted with a set of hydraulic castors that could lift either end of the car to simulate under steer/ over steer, or the entire car off the ground to simulate anything from full dry conditions to ice. Students drove in a large figure 8 and the instructor would change the amount of traction available by lifting the car.