The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

May 24, 2013

Law enforcement urges teen drivers to drive safely during holiday


TARBORO — Local and state law enforcement officers are urging teen drivers to drive safely  during the Memorial Day weekend.

Memorial Day weekend launches the "100 deadliest days" for teen drivers, with seven of the 10 most deadly days of the year occurring between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

During that span, teenagers are driving to proms and on vacations from schools

One of the biggest contributing factors in fatal accidents involving teen drivers is the number of other teen passengers in the car. Fatal crash rates for 16 to 19 year-olds increase five times when two or more teen passengers are present, compared to driving alone.

Law enforcement officials recommends parents discuss this and other driver distraction issues, like texting or using a cell phone while driving, with their teens.

"Majority of teen accidents involves with the driver being distracted in some form or fashion," said Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight. "Parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, cousins and any responsible person should constantly remind teen drivers the danger of being distracted. There is not one text message more important than staying safe. If they feel like they have to text or talk on the phone, I  encourage them to pull over on the side of the road and park. It will only take a few seconds and it could save lives."

Knight said his department administers safe driving programs throughout the high schools at list twice a year.

In 2006 legislation was passed that prohibit teen drivers under the age of 18 from driving and talking on their cell phones at the same time.

Part of the rationale for the law is that teenage driver’s inexperience behind the wheel coupled with cell phone use makes them more susceptible to accidents and other moving violations.

According to the legislation, teens caught violating the law will be fined $25, given a six-month extension on their graduated driver’s license and may be subject to paying court costs.

N.C. Highway Patrolman Sgt. D.S. Smith said investigating any fatally is hard but it is even harder when teens are involved.

"I know when I was young I thought I was invincible," said N.C. Highway Patrolman Sgt. D.S. Smith. "That is certainly not the case. It doesn't run in people minds the seriousness of driving safe. You must be careful and meticulous and stay focus on the driving task."

He added, "It's never a good thing to investigate a fatality. We always have sympathy for the family."

Stephanie Randolph knows all to well about losing a teenager to vehicle fatality. On Feb. 19, 2012 her son, Randy-Dric Lamont Higgs, was killed while riding in the back seat of a vehicle. The driver reportedly fell asleep at the wheel.

Randolph said the report of the accident is like a nightmare that will not go away.

"I was devastated and I still am," she said. "That was my baby.

"That's why every chance that I get I tell teenagers do not text, don't drink and drive and pay attention to what's going on. And if you are sleepy pull over and let someone else drive."