WIGGINS, Miss. (WLOX) - Right now, millions are on the road. Of those, many are younger drivers, but are they driving safely?
In the last year, Mississippi saw a huge jump in the number of teen fatalities on the roads, prompting the Mississippi Highway Patrol to begin a new safety campaign.
Research shows that Mississippi routinely ranks in the top five nationwide regarding teen driver fatalities. Those sobering statistics are why MHP is taking additional actions to try and keep young drivers safe.
The new campaign is called D.R.I.V.E. which is the acronym for Driving Requires Initiative Values and Education.
”The reason for the D.R.I.V.E. program in 2021 is, unfortunately in 2020, we had 70 teenagers lose their lives in traffic crashes,” said MHP Maj. Johnny Poulos. “We had 49 lose their lives in 2019. I think when you start talking about the future, we’re talking about teenagers and we are losing too many of them in car crashes.”
Police will focus on educating teens about driving distractions, impaired driving, seatbelt usage, and even driving with other young passengers.
Distracted driving is no doubt an influence in the increased number of teenage deaths behind the wheel, and it’s a huge reason why many students want more outreach programs.
”I do see it a lot when people leave the parking lot and such,” said Stone High student Hunter Wieck. “First thing they will do is get on their phone, and they will drive away and keep it right up to their face. I honestly don’t know what will work but we need something.”
Wieck was blown away to hear of the number of teens who have lost their life on the roads over the last few years.
”Unfathomable. There shouldn’t be that many deaths,” he said. “We need to cut down on it.”
Like Wieck, many students believe that means more effort from schools. Maj. Poulos agrees, but stresses that parents must step forward, as well.
”We can’t carry the load on our shoulders alone,” he said. “It takes everyone. Everyone has to take ownership.”
Due to the pandemic, MHP will begin working with educators, community leaders, first responders, and parents about the safest ways to present the program.
D.R.I.V.E will incorporate PowerPoint presentations, guest speakers, and seatbelt rollover simulators when possible.