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Teen's death highlights safe driving campaign

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TWC News: Teen's death highlights safe driving campaign
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RALEIGH -- Grief counselors were on hand Monday at Leesville Road High School as students mourn the loss of their classmate, Saleh Abdullah, who police say crashed his family's minivan Sunday morning on Hickory Grove Church Road.

"Just heartbreak and pain,” Sydney Wooten said of her classmate's death.

"He was a cool kid. He was very nice to other people,” Dana Worthy added.

Officers say the 16-year-old was going nearly 20 mph over the speed limit when he crossed the center line, overcorrected, spun out of control and hit several trees.

The police report shows the airbag did not deploy and Abdullah was not wearing his seat belt. Students were shocked to hear about the loss of the sophomore everyone called "Saul.”

"Someone you could possibly know could just die from that. It's like, scary,” Wooten said.

The State Highway Patrol says, unfortunately, Abdullah puts a face on what they consider a chronic problem among North Carolina teens. At another Raleigh high school, Millbrook High School, they launched a weeklong initiative to reach out to young drivers.

"As State Highway Patrol troopers, one thing we do not want to do is have to make that knock on that door to let [parents] know that that teen is no longer with us,” Sgt. Jeff Gordon said.

The UNC Highway Safety Research Center says in fatal accidents involving teens, 2/3 of the deaths are teen drivers themselves. One out of four 16-year-olds in North Carolina are involved in some type of crash each year.

This week, troopers will be at high schools around the state encouraging students to slow down, avoid being distracted while behind the wheel and push one simple message.

"Always obey the traffic laws, and please 'Drive to Live,'” said Col. Michael Gilchrist, head of the State Highway Patrol.

A message that Abdullah's classmates will take to heart.

"Makes me feel like I need to be more careful when I get my car. I need to watch what my speed limit is,” Wooten said.

There's no word yet on funeral arrangements for Abdullah.

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