Investigation: Watched at the Wheel

SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - It's a moment many teenagers wait for in the days leading to their 16th birthday, but a WMBF News investigation has found younger drivers are among the most dangerous on area roadways.

Statistics reveal people ages 15 to 24 are involved in 26 percent of crashes on South Carolina roadways, but what's it like getting behind the wheel with a less experienced driver?

WMBF News installed cameras in the vehicles of three teenagers at Socastee High School in Horry County, and it was a move that excited the curiosity of their parents.

"It's going to be nice to see what he's doing out there driving," said Charles Fitzpatrick, whose son, Mike, has already been involved in a minor car accident. "Our minds are always thinking. I'm sure he's texting. I tell him not to. I bet he is."

Mike, along with the two other teens, wouldn't fess up to texting, but 16-year-old Caitlin Purvis admits taking a call or two in her SUV.

"I have talked on the phone if my parents call or something," she said. "I just answer it."

The cameras installed in the teen's cars originate from a company called DriveCam, which offers a free service to customers of American Family Insurance.

Mike Way, the father of 16-year-old Dylan, has already been online to see what the camera in his son's truck has recorded.

"It's very interesting to see his expression when he realizes the camera's been triggered," he said. "Many times, it's over little things and he gives it a definite scowl of disapproval."

While the cameras can keep a close eye on the teens as they make their way around town, Dianne Mayne says she wishes someone could have kept a closer eye on her daughter, Leslie.

A few deadly seconds have been haunting the mother for more than five years.

"And I can remember the first words out of my mouth when I could finally speak was, 'I killed her,'" Mayne recalled. "They said, 'No, you did not kill your daughter.' Even if you don't have any guilt, you invent it. You just know you're supposed to protect your child."

Leslie was riding with her boyfriend to go swimming when a car suddenly pulled out in front of their vehicle, and the two collided. The teen, who had graduated from high school 10 days earlier, died on the way to the hospital in an ambulance.

Mayne says the two were close to the park when her daughter had taken off her seatbelt to grab something in the car. Leslie's boyfriend had his seatbelt on, and survived.

It's those actions that the creators of DriveCam hope to prevent, all with keeping a watchful eye on those less experienced behind the wheel.

The teens in the WMBF News Investigation will keep the cameras installed in their cars for a year and will be frequently checked-in with to see if they're driving has improved.

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