Forum held to keep teen drivers safe

November 13, 2008 8:31:59 PM PST
Officials in Johnston County are making another push to keep teen drivers safe.

The push is in response to 27 fatal crashes involving Johnston County teens in the past three years.

Saturday, Shannon Adkins became the 27th Johnston County teen to die in a car crash in the last three years.

"It's really, really devastating to Johnston County." friend Samantha Perry. "I've seen so many tears this year."

Adkins' family and friends are still grieving. Thursday city officials plan to host a teen safety driving forum to discuss the disturbing trend and ask the community what will it take to stop the loss of young lives to fatal car crashes.

Last week, Johnston County began offering driving courses to teens. It's called "Alive and 25." A book focusing on safe, defensive driving is used to teach the course.

After the first classes filled up, more classes were scheduled.

"We have to do something," Smithfield Mayor Norman Johnson said.

In the meeting Thursday, one parent called Johnston County roads a war zone and their teens behind the wheel a lethal weapon.

"It's become very evident that Johnston County has a problem," resident Tony Braswell said. "This is a rural county with rural roads and narrow shoulders."

It's a pain still stinging two mothers who lost their son's eight weeks ago in a fiery crash. Thursday they joined more than 200 others to talk about changes to the laws, along with changes to the schools drivers' education program.

"You've got to stop popping them on the wrist and sending them home to mommy and daddy and let mommy and daddy paying it off for them," Julie Stewart said.

"They need to be able to perform in hands on training where they're taught when they run off the road how to correct the vehicle how to bring it back to the road properly," Christy Baker said. "I don't think that's covered like it should be in drivers ed."

"I think the drivers ed program doesn't work it didn't help me," West Johnston High School junior agreed Leslie Byrd.

Byrd's best friend Steven Smith died Halloween night when the car he was riding in wrecked near Zacks Mill Road and Highway 50.

"It just really impacted me like I need to slow down I need to learn to drive safer," she said.

During the brainstorming session Thursday night, small groups were formed to focus on specific changes.

The Johnston County school system is adding hours to their drivers ed program starting in December and county commissioners are tossing around the idea of a simulator to give students training outside of their controlled driving situations.


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