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NCHP program targets young drivers

AHOSKIE – Operating a motor vehicle is a rite of passage for teenagers…a way to bridge the gap in their lives as they mature from children to young adults.

At the same time, these young drivers must mature behind the wheel, especially in this day and age of heavier volumes of traffic on the roadways.

For that reason, the North Carolina Highway Patrol is conducting “Operation Drive to Live” – a program dedicated to the effort of reducing the number of collisions involving teenage drivers.

According to First Sgt. Todd Lane of the Highway Patrol’s Troop A, District II office located in Ahoskie, “Operation Drive to Live” will be conducted all of next week (Feb. 23-27).

Additionally, Lane said State Troopers from his office spoke to driver education classes this past week and will do so again next week. Lane said that connection with the driver’s ed program may become more involved,

“We have coordinated with the driver education instructors to become a permanent fixture in their classrooms,” Sgt. Lane said. “A child’s first exposure to the Highway Patrol should not take place when they are stopped for a motor vehicle violation or after they are involved in a traffic collision. We want to become a positive force in the community and I can think of no better way than helping our young people succeed as they accept the responsibility that accompanies driving.”

According to Sgt. Lane, traffic collisions are the leading cause of teenage deaths in North Carolina and nationwide. Last year, 125 teens were killed on the state’s highways. Speed was the leading factor in those fatal crashes.

“Many collisions involving teenage drivers occur during their commutes to and from school,” Sgt. Lane noted.

With that in mind, Lane said the traffic portion of the “Operation Drive to Live” program will be held in close proximity to all area schools next week. The operation will be conduced daily from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.

“We will aggressively enforce the speed limit as well as keeping a keen eye on seat belt usage on the roads leading to our local schools,” Sgt. Lane stressed. “This is not just about issuing citations, which is a part of our job, but rather this is about saving lives and teaching our young people the rules of the road, especially the ones associated with driving in a school zone.”

Sgt. Lane said his office (which covers Bertie, Gates and Hertford counties) reported one teenage death and three other deaths involving children under the age of 13 as a result of motor vehicle collisions in 2008.