Raleigh, N.C. — The state Highway Patrol has seen an increase in the teenage driving deaths they investigate this year, according to statistics.
Since January, 49 teens have been killed in crashes investigated by the Highway Patrol – up 22 percent from the year before, according to patrol spokesman Capt. Everett Clendenin.
Among the victims is 18-year-old Kevin Jones, who died in May a few weeks before graduation from Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School. Raleigh police said the 18-year-old driver of vehicle Jones was in lost control and hit a minivan head-on.
Clendenin said the increase comes after a period of decline in teen driving deaths in the state.
“We’re going to push our troopers harder in the field and let them know that we really need to pick up our efforts around high schools, especially now,” Clendenin said.
The patrol said speed is to blame for the majority of these deadly accidents. Distractions, like cell phones, are also a problem.
Law enforcement and educators agree that the best way to cut down on teen driving deaths is to teach safe driving early. That starts at home.
“For the most part, I think that kids do want to learn how to drive safely,” said William Powell, of Jordan Driving School in Raleigh. “We feel like parents are the very key part of them being able to drive safely because they’re spending time with them.”
Clendenin said parents shouldn’t be scared to point out bad driving habits.
“Quite often, parents just bite their tongue and not say that ‘You’re traveling too fast,’ or ‘You need to slow down more.’ They need to hear that, especially at these crucial times when they’re just now starting to learn to drive," he said.
The state Highway Patrol and the UNC Highway Safety Research Center offer parent/teen driver agreements – a paper that reminds teens what is expected of them behind the wheel. Experts said this type of agreement can help teens focus.