Safety behind the wheel
On Monday, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Governor's Highway Safety Program (GHSP) announced that state and local law enforcement officers made 1,737 DWI arrests across North Carolina during the "Booze It & Lose It: Operation Firecracker" campaign, which was held over the Independence Day holiday, June 28-July 7.
Rutherford County law enforcement officers implemented 24 sobriety checkpoints and dedicated patrols resulting in 4 DWI citations, a decrease from last year's 13.
Officers are aggressive during "Booze It & Lose It" campaigns because DWI charges often lead to additional citations including driving while license revoked charges, occupant restraint violations, speeding violations, reckless driving charges and uninsured motorist violations.
During the recent campaign, Rutherford County traffic law charges and violations included 19 driving while license revoked, 48 occupant restraint, 106 speeding, one reckless driving and six uninsured motorist.
"Usually when we work on these campaigns, the whole reason behind them is because there needs to be a heightened awareness for law enforcement to be on the lookout for such a serious crime as drinking and driving," said Rutherford County Sheriff Chris Francis. "A lot of people don't look at driving while impaired as serious, but all too often it is extremely dangerous with fatalities and permanent loss."
Statewide, officers conducted 7,682 checkpoints and patrols during the campaign, a significant increase from the previous year's 5,974.
Counties with the highest number of DWI charges this year included Guilford (146), Wake (116) and Mecklenburg (114).
During the "Booze It & Lose It" campaign, the GHSP teamed up with the North Carolina Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies across the state, with officers focusing their efforts on all Interstates, major highways, rural two-lane roads and city streets to encourage drivers to be safe behind the wheel.
"Law enforcement officials statewide continue to play a pivotal role in keeping those who drink and drive off the roads," said Don Nail, director of GHSP, in a press release.
To help combat drunk driving the GHSP, in conjunction with the DOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has provided grants to create DWI task forces in areas with the highest number of DWI-related deaths.
There are currently seven DWI task forces across the state whose purpose is to get drunk drivers off the roads.
During the recent campaign, these task forces were responsible for 455 of the 1,737 DWI arrests.
"It's definitely a good time to heighten awareness, especially around the holidays when there seems to be a large amount of folks drinking and driving and breaking the law," Francis said.
"Booze It & Lose It" campaigns often utilize BATMobile Units, mobile breath-alcohol testing units used to increase the efficiency of on-site DWI processing.
Each BATMobile is equipped with several workstations for Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test instruments, computers, printers, cellular phones, screening test devices, magistrates' work area and all other necessary equipment and supplies for processing DWI suspects.
The "Booze It & Lose It" campaign is one of several enforcement programs used by state and local law enforcement officers to help keep drivers safe on state highways and county roads, not only on holidays but also during every day of the year.
"Year round and especially during 'Booze It & Lose It' officers are going above and beyond the call of duty to keep our highways safe," Nail said.
Rutherford County "Booze It & Lose It" Citations
(past two years):