Teen Driving Deaths Down in Charles County

Charles County teens learn importance of driving safely

In November 2007, 15-year-old Stephanie Weir was killed in a mangled car wreck after the teenage driver of the car lost control while speeding on the way to school.

“She was the kind of person that everybody knew,” said Justin Turner, President of the Thomas Stone High School student government association. “Athlete, smart, just a great personality -- someone that it was tragic to lose.”
Tragically in that same schoolyear, eight other teens in Charles County, Md., were killed in auto accidents.

Close friends like Shelby Wells are determined not to let Weir or others die in vain.

“She did have this happen to her, and we’re trying to save other students so it doesn’t happen to them,” Wells said.

She is part of a countywide program called We Care.

“After all these children were killed in our community, we had to do something about it and we really felt compelled to do something,” Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey said.

The program started by the Charles County Sheriff’s Department teams up with area high schools to teach youngsters the importance of driver safety. Today at Thomas Stone, a simulator showed teenagers what it’s like to be drunk behind the wheel.

“It was weird, like I couldn’t control anything, pretty much,” said Thomas Stone senior Chantell Anderson. “I would never drunk drive, basically, after that.”

“It was scary. I couldn’t control it,” said Thomas Stone senior Myles Harris.

The drunken driving simulator is just one part of a weeklong event leading up to the school's prom on Friday. The most shocking day comes tomorrow, when students and faculty will participate in something called Red For Dead.

“Students will be picked out of class at random and put a red shirt on, and once they put that shirt on they’re dead for that day they can’t talk,” said Thomas Stone advisor Gary Winsett. “At the end of the day, those students will be out in the front of the school.”

That display will represent the 91 teenagers killed every week nationwide in auto accidents. But thankfully, since the start of this program in the fall of 2008, Charles County hasn’t seen a single one.

“Please drive safe and remember that it’s not just your life, it’s everybody else’s in your hands,” said Wells.

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