Impaired driving crackdown effective, authorities said
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, January 3, 2019
An effort to crack down on impaired driving around the Christmas and New Year holiday resulted in 151 arrests by the State Highway Patrol in northeast North Carolina, the patrol reported Wednesday.
The annual holiday Booze It and Lose It effort officially ended on Wednesday. Master Trooper Brad Taylor of Troop A said officers also responded to 160 reportable wrecks in Troop A between Dec. 14 and Jan. 2. Reportable wrecks are those in excess of $1,000 in damages.
More impaired drivers typically are on the road between Christmas and New Year’s celebrating the holidays with friends and family and going from party to party, Taylor said. The number of arrests made in the 20-county Troop A district is normal for the holiday season, he said.
"Troopers have done a good job getting impaired drivers off the road," he said.
Troop A is headquartered in Greenville and extends north to the Virginia line and east to the coast, including Currituck, Dare, Hyde and Cartaret councties.
In Nash County, Sheriff Keith Stone elaborated on why impaired drivers need to stay off the road, comparing the sight of a motor vehicle wreck to troops encountering improvised explosive devices.
“The most horrific damage that I’ve seen is from car wrecks,” Stone said. “In essence, you’ve got a 3,000-pound bomb going down the road. And if you’re driving 55 and you hit another car at 55, that’s a 110-mile-an-hour collision. And it causes more carnage to a body than if it was shot, stabbed or blown up by an IED.”
Stone, elected Nash’s top lawman in 2014, speaks from first-hand experience of 30 years as a state trooper, noting, “I’ve been to thousands of car wrecks and been to hundreds of fatalities.”
The state is quick to point out motorists caught driving while impaired could face jail time, lose their driving privileges and pay stiff fines, towing fees and other expenses associated with a DWI.
State Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Baker said his agency “absolutely” is concerned about the well-being of people returning this week from extended vacations.
“New Year’s and Christmas is not as heavily traveled (by motorists) as Thanksgiving because most people stay local, within 50 miles from their residence,” Baker said. “But we do anticipate a spike in travel.”
He also said driving while impaired is not all about drinking.
“While alcohol consumption is definitely something that we continue to see, impairment due to illegal or legal drugs is something that we’re seeing an increase in as well,” he said.
Baker said among young people, there’s the possibility of a greater ease of raiding their grandparents’ medicine cabinet than trying to obtain liquor in a state where store operators can’t sell alcohol to those younger than age 21.
Trooper Tommy L. Davis, who’s the patrol’s traffic safety information officer, emphasized the effect on a deceased motorist’s family members is not temporary.
“It’s forever,” he said.
Taylor said his troop investigated 326 alcohol related crashes in 2018. That’s down from 347 in 2017 but still too many.
"Make sure you have a plan in place before going out and think of the consequences of driving while impaired, not just losing your license but the financial consequences of losing your job."
Reporters William F. West of the Rocky Mount Telegram and Tyler Stocks of The Daily Reflector contributed to this report.