Raleigh, N.C. — In the past week, four wrecks have left five teens dead in central and eastern North Carolina.
December was also a deadly month for teens last year. According to the state Highway Patrol, 15 of the state’s 161 teen fatalities occurred then.
According to the N.C. Highway Patrol, 136 teens have been killed in wrecks this year. Of those deaths, five have occurred this month.
On Monday, Nathan Cole, 18, a student at North Johnston High School, was killed in a three-car wreck on N.C. Highway 39 four miles north of Selma.
Authorities said Cole crossed the center line, side-swiped another vehicle and hit another car head-on. The driver of that vehicle, Victoria Jordan, 42, of Burgaw, was also killed.
On Sunday, two Mount Olive teenagers died in a head-on collision southeast of Goldsboro, state troopers said. Lisa Marie Myers, 17, was driving a vehicle west on Stevens Mill Road, near Mill Creek Road, when she drove left of the center line. Her vehicle collided with an oncoming truck. Myers and her passenger, Tyler Brewer, 15, were killed.
Ivor Joyce Tart described her grandson, Tyler Brewer, as loving and caring. She said he had just received his learner's permit and was excited about driving himself.
Yasmine Othman, 16, a sophomore at Panther Creek High School, died on Sunday from injuries she suffered in a wreck Dec. 8 on Good Hope Church Road, near N.C. Highway 55. Othman’s sister Susan, 17, was driving the two to school when she tried to pass a truck. The driver of the truck said he spilled coffee on himself and jerked the wheel, sending his truck over the center line, which authorities said forced the Othmans' car off the left side of the road.
The car struck a tree stump. Susan Othman, a senior at Panther Creek, was being treated at Duke University Hospital. She was charged with improper passing and speeding. The truck driver also faces charges.
Also on Dec. 8, Gavin Westover, 16, of East Wake High School, died in a wreck on Puryear Road in Knightdale. Westover was a passenger in a vehicle driven by 17-year-old Austin Wade Marx. Troopers said Marx lost control of a 1996 Chevrolet Camaro, before it ran off the road and overturned. Marx was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Despite recent deaths, overall experts say the number of wrecks involving teen drivers in the state is decreasing.
The number of teen drivers killed in automobile wrecks in the state has been on a downward trend, according to Arthur Goodwin, senior research associate with the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina.
The number of crashes involving teens has also decreased from 56,027 in 2003 to 48,758 last year, according to Goodwin.
Goodwin credited programs like Graduated Driver Licensing, which gradually exposes new drivers to the road. He said since GDL was first introduced in 1997 the state has seen a 33 percent reduction in crashes involving 16-year-old drivers and a 20 percent reduction in crashes involving 17-year-old drivers.
East Wake High School student Lucas Rice has created a group on social networking site Facebook to encourage teens to drive safely and not speed.
The group, which has nearly 1,800 members, features condolences to families who have lost a teen in a crash.