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News Story
Updated: 10/23/2013 08:00:02AM

One teen death called too many

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Jerry Connolly talks to the Kiwanis Club members on Friday about traffic wrecks among teens.


Jim Meyer stands proudly wearing his Little River Band T-shirt that dates back many years while Debra Sutton urges people to buy tickets for the outdoor show on Nov. 10.


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Last year 115 people between the ages of 4-33, were killed per day on the nations roads, Jerry Connolly, Polk County’s Traffic Homicide supervisor said.

He related to the Kiwanis Club that teen drivers statistically speaking are the most likely victims of traffic accidents. More than 32,000 people were involved in wrecks last year and 383 were killed on Florida roads in which a teen was driving. The most likely victim is a 16-year-old, he said according to the numbers.

That is why the Teen Driver Challenge, which is going on this week, should be of such high importance. People in town have undertaken to try to make Bartow High School realize it by entering a challenge where it can win a $100,000 grant and a concert from Grammy award-winner Kelly Clarkson. On Friday, a pep rally was held in the school gym to help the effort.

Considering all aspects of teen driving, it isn’t all bad news. In 2010 the leading cause of death among 13-18-year-olds was traffic crashes but since 1965 that number is 64 percent lower, he said.

“Maybe the decline can be attributed to education,” he said, though there’s no way to know for sure.

But, he added, that crash statistics by themselves should be shocking to say the least.

“Just that statistic itself is alarming. One teen fatality is a tragedy,” he said.

The numbers and tragedy is what is behind the sheriff’s office taking part in the teen driver challenge, Connolly said. The class is 12 hours of instruction.

“All it is is 12 hours of your time but the rewards are priceless,” he said.

The classroom instruction runs from 6-10 p.m. at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Central District Command Center, 3635 Avenue G., NW, Winter Haven. The driving portion of the program is from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at George Jenkins High, 6000 Lakeland Highlands Road, Lakeland.

In the classroom, students learn teen crash facts, how to know your vehicle, common sense when driving the vehicle, seat belts use, vehicle dynamics, safe driving, alcohol, aggressive and driving exercises. On the driving range students learn the figure 8, threshold braking, forward serpentine, reverse serpentine, cornering and off-road recovery.

There is no fee for the program and chances are a teen’s insurance rates will be positively looked upon due to taking the classes.

Little River Band

Debra Sutton and Jim Meyer stood in front of the Kiwanis Club on Friday pitching the appearance of the Little River Band which plans an outdoor concert in Mosaic Park on Sunday, Nov. 10.

Taking off his overshirt to show the Little River Band T-shirt, Meyer stood as Sutton gave her pitch to buy tickets. With each purchase people will help the Wounded Warriors Project, The Women’s Care Center and the Hearth Project.

General admission is $40 and there is limited VIP seating available where people will have an opportunity to meet the band members. Gates for the show open at 5:30 p.m. and the concert starts at 7:30 p.m. To get tickets or information call 863-834-8111.

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