Local News

Students' wrecks open eyes to driving dangers

Posted April 29, 2010 8:04 a.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2010 9:48 p.m. EDT

— 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.

"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."