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Family mourns 17-year-old killed in crash

Posted August 30, 2009
Updated August 31, 2009

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— The family of an East Wake High School student killed in a crash is trying to figure out what caused the 17-year-old to veer off the road.

Patrick Michael McLaughlin Jr., 17, of Zebulon, was killed when the vehicle he was driving veered off U.S. 64, near Lizard Lick Road, and hit a guardrail around 5 p.m. Saturday, state troopers said. McLaughlin crossed back over to the right side of the road and hit a tree.

His grandfather said McLaughlin was on his way home from work when the fatal crash happened.

"I know grandmothers and grandfathers aren't supposed to have a favorite, but this was his grandmother's favorite and we have 15 grandchildren and he was one of them,” said Russell Lecaroz, victim's grandfather.

East Wake High student killed in wreck East Wake High student killed in wreck

East Wake High School Principal Jamie Lynch said grief counselors will be at the school Monday to help students cope with McLaughlin's death.

“Patrick will be greatly missed. He was a good student and very involved with the school. We are devastated about his death," Lynch said in a statement.

Lecaroz said his grandson was one step away from becoming an Eagle Scout.

"He was a good kid," Lecaroz said.

Troopers are investigating what caused McLaughlin to veer off the highway. Speed and alcohol were not factors in the wreck, and McLaughlin was wearing his seatbelt, troopers said.

Over-correcting linked to many accidents

The state Highway Patrol has seen an increase in the teenage driving deaths they investigate this year, according to statistics.

Since January, at least 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.

Troopers said over-correcting is often a problem for young, inexperienced drivers.

The Highway Patrol considers reentering the highway an important maneuver. Troopers are brought to a special track on a regular basis just to practice for those types of situations.

The goal is to be able to help officers be able to keep that mindset when going off the road and function without panicking.

In theory, the recovery is basic: stay calm, decelerate, don't brake, then ease back onto the roadway.

"That is easier said then done. In the heat of the moment, things happen fast,” Trooper Calvin Harris said.

After recent teen traffic deaths, Jordan Driving School in Raleigh has started using videos and handouts to teach students about off-road recovery.


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  • mom2threecld Sep 1, 2009

    professor, the article clearly stated that speed and alcohol were NOT a factor. an experienced driver can over correct and have an accident

  • MakoII Aug 31, 2009


    I am giving the experience of a family member on this type of fatality who WORK in the field researching such fatalities. What would I know about that?!?

    It can happen at ANY age. It's not just "youth and inexperience".

    MOST of us lack the proper experience. A person crossing the lane can throw you INTO this situation in a split second.

    What did you share that would help THAT situation out?

    I not only know a lot about the subject of traffic fatalities, I THINK about the subject a lot.

    I figured it would be nice to share that this is a VERY COMMON way to die on the road. And yet the article didn't mention this.

    Didn't mention HOW! The MECHANICS that caused the problem.

    You can steer yourself back onto the road safely IF you do it slowly.

    Panic is what kills. Lack of training in these mechanics kills.

    Your statements do not add to the collective knowledge here and effectively teach NOTHING, professor.

  • Professor Aug 31, 2009

    You know, experience, study, science, feedback.

    If the young man had this experience then he would certainly be here today. You cannot speed an expect to live. Think before making your awkward comments.

  • shortcake53 Aug 31, 2009

    Im so sorry for his family. So young.

  • MakoII Aug 31, 2009

    This really isn't an issue of a 17 year old not being experience. This could happen to anyone.

    I have a family member involved in studying fatal crashes and I'm told that it's quite common, this type of fatality.

    Namely, one of going off the road, then over-correcting.

    The over-correction goes to the other side of the road. Either you hit a tree or car head-on, or else you try and correct back the other way and your side hits a tree or car. Often even the side-hit is fatal, with a concussion from your head hitting the window or else your head going OUT the window and hitting a tree, etc.

    If ANYTHING, this speaks volumes about the failure of DMV teaching. Instead of teaching what STUPID color a blind man's can should be before giving them "special consideration" they should teach REAL Defensive driving based on HIGH INCIDENT FATALITY Statistics.

    You know, experience, study, science, feedback.

  • Professor Aug 31, 2009

    WHEN are they going to raise the driving age in this state? WHEN?????????

    THE DRIVING AGE SHOULD BE 21. I am tired of all these in-experienced young people losing their life at such an early age.

  • Professor Aug 31, 2009

    Not an experienced driver and speed or not paying attention could be the factor. My condolences to the family.

  • simplexity10 Aug 31, 2009

    The real tragedy is our driver's ed program. We offer nowhere near enough road time for kids to learn. Raising the driving age just means you have kids 1 year older who still have only 6 hours of time behind the wheel. One thing that works: www.driversedge.com. It's a free class taught by professional race car drivers w/ 1 goal: to save kids' lives. We took my son to the program & it was FANTASTIC. They spent the day in the Greensboro Coliseum parking lot learning how to recover from a skid, brake under stress, and so much more. Go to the website & register & they'll send you an email when the tour will be in town, then register IMMEDIATELY b/c they fill up FAST. Or: make a donation so they can keep the program free and get to even more towns. I don't work for them, but I'll testify for how much the program meant to my son :-) My heart goes out to this boy & all his friends & family.

  • due_whats_right Aug 31, 2009

    Not quite a much speculation on this incident as it was with the young lady who passed in an auto accident last week. Everyone preached on that story that seatbelts saves lives. This young man had one on and was not speeding. Now I hear it was the curve in the road or a deer, now maybe a cell phone. Anything else? What is true is that in less than a week the triangle area has had at least 5 car accidents, 2 fatal, where teens were behind the wheel. We need to teach our young people safety behind the wheel and it is not on the driver's ed program to do that. There needs to be more than just taking the class and getting a piece of paper. The graduated license is not the answer either. We cannot continue to lose our future to the road! Enough is enough.

  • time4real Aug 31, 2009

    WHEN are they going to raise the driving age in this state? WHEN?????????