11/20/05 — Local officials set sights on drunken drivers

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Local officials set sights on drunken drivers

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on November 20, 2005 2:06 AM

As the holiday season approaches, Wayne County law-enforcement officers are urging people planning celebrations to remember to choose someone to stay sober for the drive home.

The statewide "Booze It and Lose It" campaign against drunken drivers started Friday and will be in effect through the end of the year. The annual step-up in highway traffic checkpoints is aimed at keeping people who have been drinking from getting behind the wheel.

Goldsboro Police Department Maj. M.D. Hopper said his officers will be looking for drivers who have exceeded the limit on alcohol consumption. Police have charged 354 people with driving while impaired so far this year.

"If you have anything to drink, have a designated driver," said Hopper, who serves as supervisor of the patrol division. He said many restaurants serve free soft drinks to designated drivers as a way to encourage responsible driving and safe roads.

Last summer, more than 3,100 people were charged with DWI during the statewide Booze It and Lose It campaign.

Since the statewide campaign started in 1993, traffic deaths caused by alcohol-related crashes have dropped by about 25 percent, according to state figures.

In Wayne County, the Highway Patrol, Sheriff's Office and Goldsboro police will beef up patrols during the period and hold numerous checkpoints. The county's other municipal police departments also might take part.

First Sgt. Terry McLeod, who supervises the Highway Patrol's Wayne County district, said officers will pay special attention to heavily traveled roads and roads with a high accident rate.

All available troopers will work over the holidays, McLeod said.

The Sheriff's Office will have a major checkpoint during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with assistance from the Highway Patrol and several police departments. Officers also will be looking for speeders, seat-belt and child-seat violators and reckless drivers.

Hopper suggested that people leave early so that they can slow down and still reach destinations on time. Slower speeds also will increase gas mileage, he said.

Goldsboro police have issued 2,894 speeding citations and 1,022 seat-belt tickets this year.

Next year, the Governor's Highway Safety Program is planning five Booze It and Lose It programs. Only one Click It or Ticket campaign will be scheduled to encourage the use of seat belts and child-safety seats.

A driver convicted of DWI can expect to pay about $9,000 in legal fees, fines and court costs, state officials say. And insurance costs will increase significantly.