Local News

Johnston County to Teen Drivers: ‘Slow Down and Live’

Posted November 10, 2007 1:15 a.m. EST
Updated November 10, 2007 8:21 a.m. EST

— In the first nine months of this year, nine teens died on Johnston County roads – an alarming rate, according to authorities.

Most of the deaths were blamed on speeding or reckless driving. State Highway Patrol troopers say a number of factors contributed to the fatal accidents.

Johnston County is growing, and more people are on the roads, officials said. Also, many of the accidents happened on secondary, two lane roads where there is very little room for error.

Wade Stewart knows the pain of losing a child.

“I keep my son’s picture in my visor to keep him close to me,” he said. “In late September of his senior year, Lance was killed in a single car accident. He ran off the road, flipped his car, and we lost him.”

Stewart, who lost his son 15 years ago, says the pain never goes away. It just lessens over time.

“My heart goes out to the parents who lose children in any way, but when I read about accidents on a highway, I do shiver,” Stewart said.

Teens dying on Johnston County roadways this year are part of an unsettling State Highway patrol statistic. The two teens who died in the latest crash in September were among nine this year alone. Statewide, 106 teens have died in car wrecks so far this year, according to the Highway Patrol, with 15 deaths in the Triangle.

“Our county is number one in teen deaths, and it’s not something we’re proud of,” said Capt. David Daughtry, with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

That's why the sheriff's office has a special unit on patrol as part of Operation Safe Teens. Deputies have been staking out rural roads around Johnston County high schools watching for teens violating the speed limit.

In a four day span, deputies wrote 57 warning citations to teens for speeding.

“We’ve clocked a couple of vehicles running 80 miles an hour in and around the schools,” Daughtry said.

One teen clocked at that rate was driving partially on the wrong side of the road and told deputies he was messing with his radio, Daughtry said.

“It’s not about writing citations,” said Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell. “It’s about partnering with our teens, partnering with our youth and saying, ‘Hey, slow down and live, guys.’”

For now, deputies are only writing warning citations to teens. Daughtry said he has noticed a change in students' driving habits since deputies have been on patrol.