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Mary Easley Helps Launch Safe-Driving Initiative for Teens

First Lady Mary Easly joined state and local law enforcement Monday to kick off Operation Drive to Live.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — For 17-year-old Melissa Willis, a simple car ride is reason for hesitation.

"It takes my breath away every time," the high school senior said.

That's because of what happened in August 2006, when she was behind the wheel in a fatal accident in which two friends traveling with her died.

"I honestly don't have any memory, any recollection of that day," she said.

Willis' mother, Michelle Willis, says her daughter still lives with that guilt, which is "unbearable at times."

The North Carolina Highway Patrol says vehicle accidents have killed 22 teenagers in the Triangle this year. Since 2004, 530 teens have died on state roadways.

That's why First Lady Mary Easley and state and local law enforcement officials launched a statewide safety initiative, Operation Drive to Live, that is aimed at reducing traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities among teen drivers.

"We have to stop these senseless deaths," Easley said, reminding teens not to speed and not to drink.

According to the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, speed is the leading cause of teenage traffic deaths. Many crashes involving teenage drivers occur during their commutes to and from high school.

That's why troopers will be enforcing traffic laws around schools and conducting traffic safety education programs this month in high schools in Wake, Wayne, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Durham, Franklin, Chatham, Lee and Harnett counties.

"(Traffic-related deaths) can happen, and unfortunately, it happened to us," said Barbara Mya, whose daughter, Emily, was in the car with Melissa Willis.

"I pray this campaign will prevent this from happening to other families," she said.


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