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Cooper promotes teen driving safety

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Northern Nash student Henry Richardson, 16, left, shakes Gov. Roy Cooper’s hand Friday at the kick off of ‘Operation Drive to Live’ at Northern Nash High School.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Gov. Roy Cooper was back at his alma mater on Friday as he helped the N.C. HIghway Patrol kick off its annual “Operation Drive to Live” initiative at Northern Nash High School.

“Operation Drive to Live” is a week-long initiative designed to bring attention to the loss of life suffered from teen driving fatalities across the state. The initiative began on Friday and will continue at other locations across the state until April 20. Troopers will increase enforcement efforts in and around high schools and will be conducting traffic safety programs with teen drivers with the primary purpose of reducing the number of teenage-related traffic collisions and deaths, especially as prom season approaches, a state press release said.

“Drive defensively and be careful,” Cooper told a group of students and community members gathered at Northern Nash High School. “I remember when I was learning to drive in Nash County. We had a lot of dirt roads and we did not have much traffic. Today, when you young people start driving, you face a lot of people immediately on the road. Some of those may not be paying attention to what they are doing and you could be hurt.”

Teens and adults need to be reminded about the dangers of distracted driving and about state laws governing the practice, Cooper said. 

“When you are under 18, it is illegal for you to use your phone or any other electronic device in the car for any reason, even with hands-free phone calls. And it is illegal for adults to text or use email when they are driving. The reason for that is that it only takes a couple of seconds and you could be dead,” Cooper said.

Cooper told the Telegram that the location for this year’s kick-off event was strategically chosen.

‘I told them I wanted to come home to my high school to kick this off,” Cooper said. “I wanted tp make sure the students here and across the state knew about this campaign. As a father of three daughters, I know that constant reminders can help.”

Col. Glenn M. McNeill Jr., commander of N.C. Highway Patrol, also spoke at the event.

“As a father to a 16-year-old son and twin 14-year-old daughters, I can tell you that from a parent’s perspective, there is no greater anxiety each day than the safety of my children,”  McNeill said. “As parents, we have to look at what we are doing to either help develop good drivers or plant seeds of negative driving habits in our children. We know that developing good teen drivers begins well before they start driving.”

McNeill said the numbers tell the story about the dangers teens face on the road.

“In 2017, 10,905 injuries were reported and 119 fatalities occurred from teen collisions that were investigated by our organization,” McNeill said. “That is 119 families who lost loved ones and 119 funerals that had to be planned. Speed, distracted driving, impaired driving and failing to wear a seat belt are life-changing decisions we repeatedly see in teen fatalities.”

Rachel Beth Acker, a 16-year-old student at Northern Nash High School, said those sobering statistics bring home the message to her.

“I think the most effective thing is when they talk about statistics because that is what hits me the most — hearing about how many kids are affected,” Acker said.

Dnya Awamlea, 18, said she thinks students should think about others and not just themselves as they drive.

“It is good to practice safe driving because it is not just your life on the road. There are other innocent people there, too. They could be driving carefully, and just one mistake can ruin their life,” Awamlea said.

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