The N.C. Department of Transportation’s “Booze It & Lose It” campaign kicked off last weekend, and attempts to greatly reduce the amount of drunk driving across the state.
“State and local law enforcement officers will be out in force as part of the Holiday Booze It & Lose It campaign,” said State Transportation Secretary Gene Conti in a press release.
According to the release, “checkpoints and stepped-up patrols began Friday, Dec. 7, and will continue through Wednesday, Jan. 2, across North Carolina in an effort to remove impaired drivers from the roads.”
“Make the responsible decision to designate a driver if you plan to drink this holiday season,” said Conti. “The choice you make could save a life.”
In 2011, there were more than 950 alcohol-related crashes in North Carolina during the holiday season, which runs through Jan. 2, resulting in 44 fatalities and 702 injuries.
Officers charged more than 3,600 North Carolina motorists with driving while impaired during the 2011 Holiday Booze It & Lose It campaign. More than 10,000 stepped-up patrols and checkpoints were conducted that year.
Drinking and driving isn’t just a problem during the Christmas holiday season.
According to Gottholm, Welborn & Benton PLLC, a Statesville criminal law attorney, the N.C. DOT’s Booze It & Lose It campaign counted 2,957 DWI charges over Labor Day weekend in 2011.
In the past two years, other measures besides the Booze It & Loose It campaign have been taken to minimize the number of drunk driving fatalities, and not only during holidays.
On Dec. 1, 2011, North Carolina’s new drunk driving law, known as Laura’s Law, established much more severe sentences for repeat DWI offenders, according to Gottholm, Welborn & Benton PLLC.
The law is named after Laura Fortenberry, a 17-year-old resident of Lowell, who died when the vehicle she was in was struck head on by a repeat drunk driver in July, 2010.
Gottholm, Welborn & Benton said the new law will mainly target three-time DWI offenders, whose punishment will be an “optional fine of up to $10,000 (up from $4,000) and a mandatory prison sentence of one to three years (up from 30 days to two years) without parole.”
Despite the new laws and continued efforts by the N.C. DOT, North Carolina is still 22nd out of the 50 states in the total number of fatalities as of May, 2011, according to statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Statistics from MADD also show North Carolina had 388 alcohol impaired fatalities in 2010, and that figure has held steady at 388 from May, 2010, through May, 2011.
While North Carolina’s rate has remained constant, other states have shown a decrease in the rate of alcohol-related fatalities.
According to CenturyCouncil.org, “41 states and Washington D.C. had decreases in the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. Consumption rates nationally and among those under the legal drinking age showed marked decreases in 2011 reaching historic low levels.”
CenturyCouncil.org also reported alcohol-impaired driving fatalities have declined 35 percent nationally, and among the United State’s under 21 population, those fatalities have declined 58 percent.
With the DOT’s continued efforts, like the Booze It & Lose It campaign, DWI’s could begin to decrease in North Carolina in the coming years.
For more information regarding Booze It & Lose It or for citation totals, contact Don Nail at (919) 733-3083 or visit the DOT’s website at www.ncdot.gov/programs/ghsp.