RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) – The number of teens killed on North Carolina roads spiked in 2020 and remained high in 2021.
With prom season now in full swing and summer around the corner, experts like Highway Patrol trooper and defensive driving instructor Michael Baker said it’s a crucial time to make sure teens are prepared for the dangers they face behind the wheel.
“I’ve had to go to too many fellow parents’ homes and deliver the message that their teen has made simple mistakes while driving and now they have to plan that funeral,” Baker said.
According to NCDOT data, the number of deadly accidents involving teens spiked by more than 33 percent in 2020 and remained high above 100 fatalities in 2021.
“Some of the main contributing factors that we’re seeing among teenagers is high speeds, driving while distracted, and not wearing seatbelts,” Baker said.
Of the deadly teen crashes in North Carolina last year, 52 percent of those killed were not wearing their seatbelts, alcohol was a factor in 16 percent of fatal teen crashes and speeding made up more than 44 percent of deadly crashes involving teens.
They’re facts that groups like the B.R.A.K.E.S Program are trying to change.
It’s a defensive driving course for teens.
The organization, while based in North Carolina, travels the country teaching new drivers and their parents how to avoid deadly accidents.
“Skid control, crash avoidance, the slalom course, panic breaking, distracted driving and drop wheel recovery,” Baker said.
Baker said they take teen drivers on skid pads and even drive off the road in one section of training in order to learn how to safely re-correct their car.
It’s one of the most common deadly mistakes Baker said he sees.
“Whenever they run off the road with two tires, they want to jerk the wheel back to the left to get back on the roadway in a hurry,” Baker said. “Well, that causes you to get into A very serious situation where you could potentially lose control of your car.”
When someone loses traction of their car or starts to skid out, instructors recommend the drivers remember C.P.R – short for Correct, Pause and Recover.
The advice teaches people how to redirect the car to where want it to go, pause until they get a grip, then continue until in a safe spot all while not stepping on the gas.
Scott Alridge has brought both his sons to the B.R.A.K.E.S. Program. As a teen, he was pulled from a crushed car on prom night.
“You can’t help but to think if that’s your son or your daughter,” Alridge said. “The car in front of us locked on their brakes, and next thing you know a pickup truck hit us at about 60 miles an hour.”
Alridge said safety starts with training beyond what a basic driver’s test requires.
“The drivers instruction that they get when they’re getting the driver’s license aren’t enough and I think that anything that they can learn to get out of situations, to become more defensive drivers, to be safer, I think is good,” Alridge said.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation says the most dangerous time of the year is between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
It’s called the 100 deadliest days for teens on the road.