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Students' wrecks open eyes to driving dangers

Posted April 29, 2010

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— Parents say that teens need to be more aware of the dangers of driving after nine South Johnston High School students were involved in two wrecks in the past two days, including one that killed a 16-year-old sophomore.

Jesse Ferrell, 16, died Wednesday after his truck collided with his best friend's on Hanna Creek Road as they were headed to school. Jordan Stikeleather, 16, was treated at WakeMed and released.

As students mourned Ferrell in a vigil at his parking spot at South Johnston High Thursday morning, seven more students were involved in a three-vehicle wreck on the same road, outside the school's main entrance.

A red pickup truck rear-ended a white Ford Mustang, which sent it into a third car, state troopers said. Two female students were treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Johnston Memorial Hospital. A third student was treated at the scene.

Parents, teens worried by traffic deaths Parents, teens worried by traffic deaths

"I am passed by teenagers that just fly past me across double lines in curves on hills," said parent Brenda Hale, who drives her daughter to South Johnston High daily.

Hale said that she has had several near-misses on Hanna Creek Road. Sometimes, she has followed cars to school and turned in license plate numbers to school officials and sheriff's deputies, she said.

"I was in danger. My daughter's life was in danger. That's a scary thought," Hale said.

Hale's daughter, Crystal, said that the rash of fatal wrecks involving teens in Johnston County has scared her away from getting her driver's license until she turns 18 years old.

"She doesn't want to drive because of the way she sees other teens drive," Hale said.

Johnston County has struggled with one of North Carolina's highest rates of teen fatalities in wrecks. Nearly 40 teenagers have died on county roads in the past five years – three this year, nine in 2009 and seven in 2008.

"Speed does kill. That is the No. 1 killer in this state," State Highway Patrol spokesman Jeff Gordon said.

Troopers are continuing to push safe driving courses, such as Alive at 25, at Johnston County high schools, Gordon said.

"We also need to reach out to our parents, and the parents also need to educate your teens as far as the dangers of driving," he said.

Expert said that Johnston County's problem stems, in part, from rapid growth that has put more teens on windy, rural roads, often driving too fast.

Hale said she wants to see roads around high schools monitored more closely – "more police presence before and after school."


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  • cjacksonnnxo May 6, 2010

    I am currently a student at south johnston high school, also. I do not believe the driving age should be raised because students, like me, do have jobs & can not always get a parent to take me. Therefore, I do have my own car [not one that "mommy & daddy just couldn't say 'no' to" but my sisters old car.] I do not think we should be forced to ride the bus until we get to college, that's ridiculous. However, I do believe their could be more done as far as driver's education goes. As much as I hate to say that, it's true. When I took driver's ed, it was long & boring. They did, however, do a pretty good job of teaching it but I feel like there could be something more. I'm not exactly sure what more could be done but something has to change. I knew Jesse & yes I agree he wasn't being the smartest driver at the time but I think all the adults that have commented about his driving should think back to when they were teens & could drive... just something for ya'll to think about.

    My thought

  • horsewuver92 Apr 30, 2010

    I am currently a student at south johnston high & i think you people have lost it. Unlike wake county we are a close county & every body knows everybody. Jesse was one of my best friends we grew up together. You people have no idea how many four wheelers, dirt bikes, tractors, etc. this boy has drove. In our countrified county we have been driving way longer than anybody. We have drove through fields and plowed land for years. We have worked on farms as well. Some of you poeple are cold heartless turkey nuggets. South johnston lost a friend, brother, and son. His parents were always very cautious about him. Some point in time you have to let go of your childs hand. That is what happened here yall can't tell me yall never made a mistake in driving. We cared alot about him so we moarn for him & go to a parking lot & set stuff up for him. Yall are just jealous that nobody would do that for you! Jesse deserves every bit of respect & honor we give him!

  • JustaCitizen Apr 30, 2010

    I sure wish WRAL would do an update to reflect that a 26 year old caused the wreck Thursday morning. The only reason the teens were mentioned in the story is to illicit a response about teen driving. Let all the facts be known. Adults drive just as bad as teens do. I know, I drive somewhat bad and I am 38 years old, yet I do like to know all the facts before passing judgement.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 30, 2010

    "There are many bad roads in joco and most of them do not have warning signs for the horrible curves." -- cfizzle021

    Now road signs, the DOT (for not placing warning signs at every curve on every road) and the roads themselves have been added to the list of people & things to blame for bad driving & not wearing a seatbelt. Nice job, cfizzle. :-(

  • cfizzle021 Apr 30, 2010

    THANKYOU amyweston72

  • cfizzle021 Apr 30, 2010

    Most of you parents are hypocrits and your children are propably doing the same things but on your interstates and big roads in wake county. Drivers ED isn't the problem, why would a kid drive bad in front of their instructor knowing that if they did they would not pass?? The problem is us teens feel invincible and don't think about the consequences of our actions until it's too late. It's just a part of life, most of us "joco" students at SJHS have been raised on or around a farm and driving a tractor or something since we were little so most of us have experience. Like I said teenagers are going to be teenagers, it's our choice of how we want to drive and we will have to suffer the consequences. Ofcourse everyone will drive good or slow the next few weeks because of Jesse's death but I gurantee everybody will be back to their same routine of acting up in just a few weeks. There are many bad roads in joco and most of them do not have warning signs for the horrible curves. RIP JESSE! Y

  • JOCOgirl10 Apr 30, 2010

    Show some COMPASSSION!!!!

    First Id like to say I'm a JOCO girl and proud of it. I'm also a graduate of SJ high school. I'm not sure why all these so called parents are being such hypocrites! Don’t think something like that can’t happen to your child! I'm also a Mom of 3 teenage boys and I don't claim to know what will happen to them when they get behind the wheel of a car. However when it's your time to go your going go whether your in a truck, BUS, car, plane, bicycle or walking down the road. What happened to our beloved SJ student was tragic but at least he had enough love and support from his family and friends to let others know his death was not in vein! If these students want to hold a vigil then leave them alone and let them grieve the way they want. If you have an issue with that, then keep it to your self! I’m sitting here with 3 SJ students having to read this mess .How do you think they will feel having to drive home today after reading this mess!

  • it sometimes rains Apr 29, 2010

    Amen to "that guy again!"

  • it sometimes rains Apr 29, 2010

    We don't have an awful lot of news or accidents over here in Johnston county (let's see the Wake numbers or numbers across the state). So yes, boys racing to school (imagine that) that do dumb things are news worthy here. There are so many accidents on 40 that I have always wished the state would invest in billboards that state..."Hey, Pay Attention and let's not run into each other today!"

    Hello people! Blaming all sorts of folks here and the poor parents too, really? I mean this is a tragic case of boys going too fast and doing stupid things in cars. If you really think that parenting or teachers could have changed a teenage boy's urge to show off, I think you are mistaken or have if you a solution to this write a book for us all. This is so sad, but not the first or the last to be had. I am incredibly saddened for the parents and friends of the young man that passed away trying to prove something that I still have yet to figure out. The family is in our thoughts and prayers

  • Brogden Apr 29, 2010

    If I had a 16 year old student at So. Johnston - or at any other school in the county - you can bet I would put them on "big yellow" for the rest of the year just to make MYSELF feel a little more at ease!!! By the way -- how come all of these 16 year olds have their own vehicles and can drive them to school? Where do they work?