The number of teenage driver fatalities have decreased in North Carolina this year, and officials say the number has decreased or remained the same in Surry County as well.
Last year North Carolina State Highway Patrol officers investigated 47 teen driver fatalities from January to July 26, 2009. In 2010, officers only investigated 28 teen driver fatalities during that period.
This 40 percent decrease at the state level is promising. But Col. Randy Glover, commander of the State Highway Patrol, said in a press release, “Despite this significant decrease, our job is far from over. We will continue to look at various ways in which we can build upon this recent reduction. Our goal is to prevent a single teen from losing their life on the highways.”
Sgt. Todd Keller with Highway Patrol said the number of teen driver fatalities has gone down in Surry and Yadkin counties so far this year.
Of the cause of the decrease, Keller said, “Hopefully it’s education.”
Highway Patrol has a texting while driving program that all of the local high schools take part in. For this program, troopers set up a driving course and let teens drive without distractions and then while texting to show the difference in their driving ability. Throughout the year troopers also visit schools to give talks about safe driving.
John Shelton, director of Surry County Emergency Services, said there have been two deaths in Surry County this year where teens were driving at the time of the accident. He said this number is average for the year. In one wreck, a 16-year-old was killed at the intersection of Highway 601 and Rockford Street. A 19-year-old died in a wreck that took place on Highway 601 between Mount Airy and Dobson.
“We get a lot of accidents by drivers under the age of 21,” said Shelton. “It’s mostly from inexperience.”
According to Shelton, most of the serious accidents take place on rural routes or certain stretches of Highway 601 and U.S. 52. Shelton said the intersection of Highway 601 and Rockford Street in Dobson is especially tricky.
Often the teen drivers in these wrecks are driving at accelerated speeds at the time of the accidents.
“Most of the time it’s driver error,” Shelton noted.
Keller said speeding, distractions, and lack of seatbelts are big issues with teen drivers. He said parents should monitor their young drivers who have permits and give them instructions on how to be safe drivers.
At the beginning of June the North Carolina State Highway Patrol sponsored a statewide effort called Operation Drive to Live to remind teenage drivers about safe driving. Surry County troopers called the operation a success. During the operation, troopers patrolled five high schools in Surry and Yadkin counties and issued 18 traffic citations.
Keller said the Highway Patrol will hold another operation over Labor Day.
Contact Meghann Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.