With the days of summer vacation coming to an end, hundreds of motorists plan to travel on Sampson County roads to enjoy the Labor Day weekend. North Carolina Highway Patrol troopers are urging motorist to be safe in the process.
The Highway Patrol will increase its patrols during the holiday weekend, which officially begins 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5. Troopers will be looking for impaired drivers, speeders and careless drivers. They will also help people in need.
“It’s the last big day of the summer and the last chance for people to take trips to get away,” said First Sgt. David Kinlaw, leader of the Sampson County branch of the Highway Patrol. “So we’re going to be real busy with a lot of people coming through and going to White Lake and the beach.”
Kinlaw said drivers should monitor the weather for a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch for Florida’s Gulf coast. He hopes the area gets a glance and not a direct hit. He expects Sampson County to be effected mostly on Friday.
“We’ll definitely get rain, but we don’t know if we’re going to get any of the wind with it or not,” Kinlaw said. “That what we’re watching right now.”
According to reports, the storm in the gulf is predicted to move across northern Florida, towards the Atlantic. As of Wednesday morning, projections from North Carolina Public Safety show that it’s expected to bring heavy rains to the southeast coast on Friday and Saturday. Kinlaw still urged caution since the path is unpredictable.
“Not knowing what we’re going to get from the storm, people need to allow themselves plenty of travel time,” Kinlaw said about obeying the speed limit or slowing down for the conditions. “If you’re in heavy rain, reduce your speed so you don’t hydroplane (slide uncontrollably on the road).”
According to a news release, North Carolina troopers investigated 10 fatal collisions and 365 injury collisions during the previous Labor Day weekend. Three were attributed to impaired driving.
“As Labor Day approaches, I ask everyone to think safety first,” said Bill Grey, commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. “Please designate a sober driver and obey all the traffic laws. Working together we can make a difference and save lives.”
Stats from the Center for Disease Control show that more than 4,000 people from 2003 to 2012 were killed in North Carolina behind an impaired driver. To deter the problem, troopers made more than 21,000 arrests in 2015 for driving while impaired. In 2016, there have been 16 deaths on Sampson highways investigated by the Highway Patrol, nine in six separate wrecks just since the end of June.
Along with their efforts, troopers are encouraging motorists to do their part too. The highway patrol set up a system to report motorists suspected of drunk driving or driving recklessly by dialing *HP or *47. It’s toll free and callers should be prepared to help the dispatcher by giving a description of the vehicle, license plate number, location and its direction.
Highway troopers believe the best way to prevent drunk driving is to plan in advance to have a designated driver.
“I hope everyone enjoys the holiday and don’t drink and drive,” Kinlaw said.
During a situation with an impaired driver, highway patrol officials offered the following tips.
• Be as non-confrontational as possible.
• Suggest alternate ways of getting to their destination — a cab, a sober driver, public transportation.
• Remember that the person you are talking to is impaired — talk a bit more slowly and explain things more fully than if you were speaking to a sober person.
• Explain that you don’t want them to drive because you care and you don’t want them to hurt themselves or others.
• Suggest that they sleep over.
• Enlist a friend to help you or to act as moral support — it’s more difficult to say “no” to two (or three or four) people than one.
• If possible, get the person’s keys. It is far easier to persuade the potential driver when you hold this leverage.
• If all else fails, call law enforcement. It’s better to have a friend arrested than injured or killed.