Local News

Johnston DA makes training mandatory for some teen drivers

Posted November 4, 2008 5:45 p.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2008 10:53 a.m. EST

— Starting Dec. 1, a defensive-driving course for young drivers in Johnston County will soon become mandatory for those cited for a motor-vehicle violation.

Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said Tuesday she hopes by requiring drivers under 21 who are charged to enroll in the program, it will help reduce the number of teenage driving-related deaths and accidents in the county.

The county leads the state in the number of fatalities of 15- to 24-year-olds in automobile crashes. Last year, 11 teenagers died in car wrecks.

Several more have died this year, most recently 17-year-old Steven "Drew" Smith, who was killed this past weekend in a wreck on Zacks Mill Road near N.C. Highway 50. Speed was a factor in the crash, authorities said.

"Although this will not solve the problem, it is one step that we can take to insure young drivers fully appreciate the seriousness and responsibility of driving a motor vehicle and the consequences of unsafe driving," Doyle said.

More than 600 motorists have been through the four-hour course since it began this year, and Doyle said she has received positive feedback from students who participated.

She is also working with the Johnston County Board of Education and other community leaders to be able to reach out to all young drivers.

"We are exploring the possibility of offering it to all Johnston County students as a requirement through their driver's education training," she said.

The Alive at 25 program, which is open to any teenager age 16 to 19, is put on by the Safety and Health Council of North Carolina at 17 community colleges across the state, including Raleigh, Clinton, Charlotte and Wilmington. More information is available by calling 919-209-2213. The cost is $50.

The course is also available through the Town of Smithfield for ages 16 to 19 for free. A $5.50 charge for instructional materials does apply, however. The next class is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday. To register, or for more information, contact the town at 919-934-2116.