06/30/06 — Officers watching for holiday revelry that goes too far

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Officers watching for holiday revelry that goes too far

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 30, 2006 1:50 PM

As Wayne County residents plan Fourth of July holiday vacations, law-enforcement agencies are getting ready for something else -- the annual statewide "Booze It and Lose It" campaign against drunken drivers.

Goldsboro police, the N.C. Highway Patrol and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office will take part in impromptu checkpoints around the county. The campaign, also called "Operation Firecracker," started Thursday and will extend through July 9.

"We know many people will be on vacation and away from their regular routines," said Goldsboro police Maj. Mike Hopper, who supervises the patrol division. "They may go to different restaurants and clubs to party, and they should keep in the back of their minds to have designated drivers."

Forty-one people died last year during the July Fourth holiday on North Carolina roads, and 16 of them were killed in alcohol-related crashes, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Program. An-other 225 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes.

County officials expect traffic to increase by at least a third on major highways, including U.S. 70, U.S. 117, U.S. 13 and N.C. 111.

"We'll closely monitor traffic on U.S. 70," Hopper said of the main east-west road to many beaches on the central coast.

The major warned that travelers should expect delays because of heavy traffic and new stoplights on West Grantham Street.

"Any time there is a major holiday, traffic going to and coming from the beach should allow extra time for (the roads) to clear up," Hopper said.

Police do not conduct many checkpoints on the four-lane divided highway because of heavy traffic, but occasionally they hold a major checkpoint with other agencies. This year, Hopper said, one of the state's Breath Alcohol Testing buses, or BAT-mobiles, will not be assigned to the county.

Police officers, state troopers and sheriff's deputies will be watching for impaired drivers, speeders, careless and reckless drivers, tailgaters and other hazardous moving situations.

The Highway Patrol is expected to conduct random checkpoints and hold saturation and line patrols during the period on high collision-producing roads. Troopers will saturate a particular area and closely patrol main highways.

Sheriff's Maj. Billy Anderson said his office was still planning what patrol deputies will do during the two-week program.

Anderson said checkpoints are held routinely every day and the result has been not only the arrest of traffic violators but the discovery of stolen property.

The Booze It and Lose It program started Thursday with a kickoff meeting of law-enforcement officials at Mount Mitchell State Park, which is off the Blue Ridge Parkway, northeast of Asheville. No one from Wayne County attended the meeting.

During the last statewide campaign, "Click It or Ticket," that encourages the use of seat belts and child safety seat and ended earlier in June, 2,110 people were arrested and charged with driving while impaired.