The N. C. Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program have officially kicked off the Labor Day “Booze It & Lose It” campaign, which runs through Sept. 1.
As part of the campaign’s launch, NCDOT and GHSP held a luncheon in Charlotte on Friday, Aug. 15 to recognize the 20th anniversary of “Booze It & Lose It” in North Carolina. Over the past two decades, the state has made great strides to save lives by increasing public awareness about the dangers of driving drunk and stepping up high visibility enforcement efforts to catch those who make the bad decision to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.
“North Carolina has always tackled issues head on,” said GHSP Director Don Nail. “Twenty years ago, we knew our state had a problem with drinking and driving. We partnered with law enforcement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other government agencies to pool our resources to make a real difference. Getting drunk drivers off the road has been and will continue to be one of our top priorities.”
GHSP started working with MADD in the 1980s to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, and reinforce the message that lives lost to drunk driving are 100 percent preventable.
This team approach to improving safety gained momentum as GHSP partnered with former Gov. Jim Martin’s administration, MADD, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Forensics Test for Alcohol branch, the N.C. Department of Insurance, the Highway Safety Research Center, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and law enforcement to combat the issue. Extraordinary cooperation and commitment resulted in the “Booze It & Lose It” initiative launching in North Carolina in 1994.
Since the campaign’s inception, officers have arrested nearly 1.5 million drivers for driving while intoxicated. Despite increased enforcement efforts, 8,469 individuals lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes from 1994 to 2013.
Despite two decades of education, awareness and enforcement, people are still making the life-threatening decision to drink and drive. Therefore, the “Booze It & Lose It” partners are constantly looking for new ways to catch drunk drivers and prevent crashes. In 1996, NC DHHS Forensics Test for Alcohol and GHSP launched the Breath Alcohol Testing (BAT) Mobile Unit. The BAT Mobile can go anywhere and assists law enforcement by providing the ability to test suspected impaired drivers on the scene. Today, there are six in operation with plans to expand the fleet in the near future.
In addition to the BAT Mobile, DWI task forces are in operation in areas with the highest number of DWI-related deaths. There are currently nine DWI task forces across the state, located in the following counties, which are dedicated solely to getting drunk drivers off the roads: Forsyth, Guilford, Wake, Mecklenburg, Buncombe, Robeson, Columbus, New Hanover and Brunswick.
The public awareness and education component continues to evolve, as well. The data show males 18-34 are the top offenders when it comes to drunk driving. In an effort to reach this key population and change their behavior, NCDOT and GHSP have produced a new public service announcement that will begin running today on television and digital media.
Non-traditional media will also play a significant role in spreading the word about the Labor Day “Booze It & Lose It” campaign. GHSP is sharing its anti-drinking and driving messages on Pandora, Facebook and Twitter, as well in restaurants and bars with posters and coasters reminding patrons to have a designated driver.
The Labor Day “Booze It & Lose It” campaign begins today, Aug. 15 and ends on Sept. 1. During that time, law enforcement officers will step up patrols statewide day and night, and cite those who make the decision to drive drunk.