Teen drivers challenged

Published 8:52 pm Monday, September 17, 2012

State Farm launched a campaign at Nansemond River High School Saturday to get teens and the community thinking about teen driver safety.

After almost a decade of research, the insurer says it is pursuing a new, more positive approach to the issue.

“Focusing on what teens can do empowers teens and holds promise in breaking through with today’s young motorists,” a press release stated. “Crashes are the number-one killer of teens, and the first year of driving is the most dangerous.”

Suffolk-based State Farm insurance agents Sherman A. Vincent, Ken DeLoach, B.J. Willie, and Agency Field Executive Vince Lockhart support teen driver safety at Nansemond River High School Saturday.

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The Celebrate My Drive event at Nansemond River High was provisioned with orange juice and, from O’doodle Doo’s, doughnuts iced with traffic-sign designs.

Students from the three high schools were invited, along with civic leaders. The event started at 11 a.m., and after 45 minutes, only one student was present and no dignitaries.

Agency Field Executive Vince Lockhart, acknowledging that getting students to return to school on a Saturday is a tall order, said next year’s event would perhaps be held on a Friday.

The event’s lack of patronage despite freshly baked doughnuts could also point toward the urgency of the issue State Farm is tackling.

“We want to try to make sure that they understand that driving is a right, and with that right comes responsibility,” Lockhart said.

“You get the right through the courts to have a license; the court can obviously take your license if you choose not to follow the road signs and drive outside of reason.”

The insurer has given the School Board $2,500 toward promoting teen driver safety, Lockhart said.

Celebrate Drive, a national event, also launched Project Ignition, which gives schools the chance to win additional grants, including one for $100,000, and students the chance to win a car.

Lockhart asked the community to “rally around” the schools as they create projects based on driver safety.

“They might want to reach out to the fire department, the police department or other entities to help them design this project,” he said.

The former law enforcement officer and “claims person” said experience has taught him the importance of teen driver safety.

“We’re really challenging the city to embrace this concept, so that when these schools put together their projects for Project Ignition, they have a good opportunity to be those grant recipients,” he said.