04/10/11 — Students to carry safe driving message

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Students to carry safe driving message

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 10, 2011 1:50 AM

With high schools across Wayne County either in or about to enter prom season, the state Highway Patrol is making its annual push to promote safe teen driving. This year, though, troopers in Wayne County are taking a unique approach to getting the message out.

Instead of simply relying on troopers to tell students to drive safely, they've asked the students themselves to promote the annual Drive to Live Teenage Safe Driving Program, which will be held Monday through Friday.

Trooper Jimmy Graham explained that they asked the principals at each of the eight public high schools to select one student who has a voice that other students listen to -- student athletes, student government leaders, others who are active in many facets of student life. They then asked these students to record the radio spots for the week -- which will run on WGBR and its two sister stations -- urging teens to "Think, be safe and 'Drive to Live.'"

The spots will also be played at the schools this week to go along with visits and programs held by local troopers.

"If your buddy hears you on the radio, that's going to have a lot more effect than we could ever have," Trooper Bennie Grady said.

"I don't know of any other county in the state doing this," Graham added. "The kids are excited about doing it. I don't know why we hadn't thought about it before. Kids, if they feel involved, they're apt to take it more seriously."

And while Wayne County doesn't have near the problem with fatal teen accidents that neighboring Johnston County does, the troopers said they still see more than they would like. Among the concerns are teens speeding, texting while driving, not wearing seat belts, drinking and driving, and other unsafe behaviors. Across the state, they said, 117 teenagers were killed in traffic accidents.

"We've been blessed, but it gets progressively worse," Grady said, adding that prom and spring break season is one of those times they're likely to see a spike because of the number teen drivers out on the roads -- drivers who normally aren't there.

And while they plan to increase enforcement and their presence on the roads this week, particularly as students are heading to and from school, their main focus is on prevention.

"We're not against them," Grady said. "We're trying to be with them. If we can get through this time this year and nothing bad happened, then we've done something," Grady added. "And the credit will go to the students who are stepping up and trying to make a difference."

The students who participated were Jarrod James from Charles B. Aycock, Morgan Jeffreys from Eastern Wayne, Robert Wynn from Goldsboro, Jacquez Raynor from Rosewood, Dakota Toms from Southern Wayne, Tyler Mozingo from Spring Creek, Jalen Lewis from Wayne School of Engineering and Cody Scrufari from Wayne Early/Middle College.