12/10/08 — Task Force sets sights on safer holiday on roads

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Task Force sets sights on safer holiday on roads

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 10, 2008 1:46 PM

With the approaching festive holiday season, also renowned for increases in drinking and driving, one group hopes to become more proactive in preventive measures.

The Substance Abuse Task Force, an arm of Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, or WATCH, hopes to partner with military and local law enforcement to keep motorists safe during the upcoming weeks.

"December is 3-D Month -- National Drunk and Drugged Driving Month -- across the nation," said D.J. Coles, who chairs the Substance Abuse Task Force.

In 2006, 13,470 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes, Coles said. Also noteworthy, he said, is that across the board, alcohol is involved in nearly one-third of all traffic deaths.

There is also concern over younger drivers. Recent reports indicated 23 youths in Johnston County died on the roadways over the past year.

Wayne County is not immune. While the death rate may not be as high at this point, there is still concern.

Coles says the group plans to contact officials in Johnston County and eventually partner up with efforts there to reduce the statistics.

"But first, to get this thing started, let's get started in Wayne County," he said at Thursday's task force meeting.

From his research, the best way to start is through prevention or such efforts as "small-scale sobriety checkpoints," which have proved successful in other states.

Goldsboro and Wayne County have also taken similar steps, such as the "Booze It or Lose It" program when random checks are made of motorists.

Coles said his group could affiliate with other agencies and organizations, volunteering to assist where needed.

"I think that maybe we could be a catalyst, having a Checkpoint Wayne County or a Checkpoint Goldsboro, see how it does over a year or two years, seeing if this will make a significant decrease," he said.

Michael Green of Goldsboro Police Department's park police said random checkpoints are held all the time, adding that, "On any given day of the week, 10 percent are driving impaired."

The task force hopes to become more visible and lend itself to causes that will better the community, Coles said. The goal at this point would be to conduct at least one checkpoint over the holidays off base, with another one on base.

"What it does is lay the groundwork, that we are taking substance abuse seriously," he said.