Deadly car crashes involving teens a problem in Mississippi

The Mississippi Highway Patrol launches campaign to tackle the issue
Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 3:07 PM CST
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Teen driving fatalities spiked in 2020. It’s a problem the Mississippi Highway Patrol is addressing.

MHP is implementing a new traffic safety campaign. It’s called D.R.I.V.E. or Driving Requires Initiative Values and Education.

70 teenagers lost their lives in traffic crashes in the state last year compared to 49 in 2019 and research has shown that Mississippi consistently ranks in the top five nationwide regarding teen driving fatalities.

“Some of the things that we see most often are distractions,” said Sgt. Andy West of MHP Troop H. “Young teenage drivers that are driving distracted. That as well as driving impaired is something we see as well as driving unrestrained.”

In an effort to bring the numbers down, the MHP is taking the DRIVE campaign to schools, community colleges, universities, churches and civic groups across the state.

“If we see the violation and we write a citation and it goes to the court system,” added West. “What we’re trying to do with this program is to attack the situation before it gets here. We’re trying to let education proceed the enforcement part of our job.”

Ariel Miller and Joel Linton are seniors at Southeast Lauderdale and they know they face a lot of distractions behind the wheel.

“Our biggest problem in Mississippi is distractions,” said Miller. “The phone, especially as a teen, is very tempting to pick up the phone when you’re driving and that’s our biggest problem.”

“I try my best to drive safe.” said Linton. " I do have to admit though there are sometimes that I do pick up the phone or I will text and drive but I will limit myself the most I can.”

“Any fatality is tragic and as a law enforcement officer, are difficult to deal with,” said West. “Anytime a teenager or young adult is taken in a traffic accident it does compound the problem and it is harder to deal with.”

The D.R.I.V.E. Campaign will incorporate power point presentations, guest speakers and seat belt rollover simulators when possible. Main topics will include driving distractions, impaired driving, seat belt usage and driving with teen passengers.

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