Police in Charles Seek to End Teen Bloodshed on Local Roads - Southern Maryland Headline News

Police in Charles Seek to End Teen Bloodshed on Local Roads

Six teenagers have died in automobile crashes in Charles County since October

LA PLATA, Md. (Dec. 3, 2007)—Automobile crashes have killed six teenagers in Charles County since October and seriously injured several others, and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office is increasing enforcement efforts aimed at stopping the alarming trend.

Among its efforts, the Sheriff’s Office is working with Charles County Public School officials to monitor and enforce seatbelt use and vehicle occupancy restrictions at local high schools. Students who are found not wearing seatbelts to or from school will be issued citations. Student drivers will also be cited if they are transporting passengers they are not permitted to carry and those passengers will be required to call a parent or ride a school bus for transportation. The Sheriff’s Office is also increasing its speed limit enforcement efforts and will strictly enforce the provisional license occupancy requirements when they conduct traffic stops on teen drivers outside of the school. No warnings will be issued.

“We need to make a concerted effort to reach these kids and it is not something law enforcement can do alone,” said Sheriff Rex Coffey. “We are working with Superintendent Richmond and school officials to combat this problem and get kids to realize they are not invincible and driving is an enormous responsibility.”

In addition to the increased enforcement campaign, the Sheriff’s Office is asking students to be part of the solution. Resource officers assigned to each school and principals will meet with Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) and Student Government Association Groups (SGA) to gather their input about how to best get students to drive safely.

The Sheriff’s Office is working with school officials to meet with parents as well. The Sheriff’s Office wants to remind parents of the laws about teen drivers, urge them to demand responsible driving from their children and remind them to set good examples in themselves. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office is asking parents to reconsider whether driving is a necessity for their children, especially since alternatives such as after-school activity buses are readily available at all high schools through the school system.

“There are a lot of laws about driving but none of them require parents to permit their child to drive or obtain a license,” said Sheriff Coffey. “When parents allow their children to have a license, they can set their own restrictions, which can be even stricter than the law requires, or they can revoke their child’s driving privileges altogether at any time the parent chooses.”

The Sheriff’s Office will continue to participate in two successful programs. For several years, the Sheriff’s Office has operated a parental notification system in which officers notify parents when teens are stopped and issued a traffic citation, warning or equipment repair order. The Sheriff’s Office and school officials also participate in the High School Driver Program. If students are stopped by Sheriff’s officers while commuting to or from school or a school-related event, the officer will notify the student’s school resource officer and as a result students may have their school driving privileges suspended or revoked.

Finally, the Sheriff’s Office plans to add a safe driving lesson to its Truth and Consequences program, which is presented to freshmen and juniors by the school resource officers and was created to encourage students to make safe decisions about drugs, alcohol, gangs and other issues teens may be confronted with.

“Charles County is faced with a real problem now and only a community-wide effort will solve it,” said Sheriff Coffey. “The Sheriff’s Office vows to do whatever it takes to ensure another family does not suffer the loss of a loved one, another school does not suffer the loss of a student and another teenager’s life is not cut tragically short.”

The Death & Injury Toll in Charles County Since October

Six teenagers have died in automobile crashes since October and the loss of these young lives has devastated families, schools and the community. However, not all crashes result in death; many crash victims suffer serious injuries. The following is a breakdown of the most recent teen crashes investigated by the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, including those that resulted in death or serious injuries:

· On Nov. 28, the crash that killed a high school sophomore on Poplar Hill Road also critically injured the teen driver and seriously injured another teen passenger. They were all wearing seatbelts.

· On Nov. 6, the crash that killed four La Plata High School students also seriously injured the fifth passenger in the vehicle. None of the teens wore seatbelts.

· On Nov. 3, a 17-year-old boy was seriously injured in a single-vehicle crash on St. Charles Parkway near Northgate Place. He wore a seatbelt.

· On Oct. 27, a 16-year-old boy was killed in a single-vehicle crash on Billingsley Road. He was wearing a seatbelt.

· On Oct. 21, a 16-year-old girl was critically injured in a single-vehicle crash on Dubois Road. She was wearing a seatbelt.

Speed and driver error were contributing factors in all the crashes.

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