The Highway Patrol said 17-year-old Patrick McLaughlin Jr. veered off the highway to the left, hit a guardrail, then crossed back over to the right side of the road and hit a tree.
Troopers said they are not sure what caused McLaughlin to veer off the road, but he was wearing his seatbelt. Investigators will know more about what may have happened after they review a report on his death from the medical examiner's office.
"We are devastated by this tragedy and our hearts and prayers are with his family," East Wake High School Principal Jamee Lynch said. "Our school crisis team will be meeting to develop plans to support our students and staff."
The school will have grief counselors on campus Monday for students and staff.