ROCKINGHAM — State troopers in Richmond County and across North Carolina will be on the lookout for drunken drivers and lead-footed motorists over the Independence Day holiday weekend.
The N.C. Highway Patrol kicked off the Booze It and Lose It: Operation Firecracker campaign this week in an effort to discourage impaired driving and speeding on the state’s roads and highways. Officials said increased enforcement will continue through Sunday night.
“Throughout the Independence Day weekend, the Highway Patrol will be working to insure that everyone has a safe and happy holiday,” patrol commander Col. Bill Grey said in a statement. “We continually work to educate the public about the hazards of impaired driving; unfortunately, some people will still choose to get behind the wheel while impaired. Rest assured the people we cannot reach through education; we will do our best to reach through enforcement.”
More troopers will be patrolling interstates, major four-lane highways and paved rural roads throughout the Tar Heel State during the enforcement campaign.
North Carolina saw 353 alcohol-related fatalities in 2013. Fewer people have lost their lives to alcohol-related crashes this year, with Highway Patrol statistics showing 105 alcohol-related fatalities through June 20 compared to 164 at the same point last year.
Authorities credit stepped-up saturation patrols, driver license checks and increased public awareness with the reduction.
“On Independence Day or any other day of the year, if you are driving after drinking, law enforcement will be working to keep you off the roads,” said Don Nail, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “Driving after even one drink is risking your life and the lives of others. It’s simple – just don’t do it. Get a ride home from someone that has not been drinking.”
Troopers said Operation Firecracker will concentrate not just on impaired driving, but on enforcing posted speed limits and stopping motorists seen swerving and making unsafe maneuvers. Speed is the leading cause of traffic crashes and fatalities in North Carolina.
Aggressive driving behaviors such as following too closely, making erratic lane changes, safe movement violations and texting while driving will earn motorists a citation, the Highway Patrol said in a release.
Citizens anywhere in North Carolina can report crashes, impaired drivers and stranded motorists to the N.C. Highway Patrol by dialing *HP (*47) on their cellphones. The toll-free call will connect callers with the nearest Highway Patrol communications center.