Troopers with the N.C. Highway Patrol want this to be a safe and merry holiday season, and while they hope they don’t have to deliver a citation as a Christmas present or a way to ring in the new year, if they see violators, they say, they won’t hesitate to pull them over.
“We encourage all motorists to obey all traffic laws and to allow extra time while traveling in order not to get in such a rush,” said Patrol officer Ricky Hooks. “Do your part in keeping the holidays as safe as possible and do not end up a statistic. As always, wear your seatbelt and never drink and drive.”
While the drinking and driving mantra isn’t a new one, Hooks said oftentimes people assume a DWI arrest is focused solely on those who get behind the wheel of a vehicle after having too much alcohol.
But that’s not the only things motorists have to be mindful of, Hooks warned. “Please understand that if you use medication, always abide by the warning instructions. Many drivers are arrested for impaired driving each year because they are operating a vehicle while impaired because of prescription medications and/or illegal drugs.”
And those offenses are just as dangerous as having too much alcohol in your system and then driving.
Although the Patrol will be operating under what officers call a holiday schedule, Hooks said they will be utilizing all available members to continue to place emphasis on hazardous violations, including DWI, speeding and seatbelt offenses on all major thoroughfares and areas where need has been demonstrated based on gathered collision data.
“We’ll also be paying special attention to aggressive and distracted drivers. Our goals is to ensure the roadways of the county are safe to travel and that motorists may have a pleasurable experience while traveling to and from their destinations.”
Hooks urged motorists to use common sense in their travels, understanding that speeding is hazardous, just as impaired driving is, and that texting, another offense, can be very deadly.
“These laws are in place for a reason — to keep motorists safe.”
Pointing to the increased number of DWI arrests in Sampson County this year, Hooks said it was important to be mindful of what you drink before you drive and that the slogan the life you save could be your own is extremely true.
This year, there have been 480 DWI arrests in Sampson, a number that has steadily grown over the past six years. In 2011, there were 420 impaired driving arrests; in 2010, 302; in 2009, 305; in 2008, 313; and in 2007, 305.
Illegal drug use and/or the misuse of prescribed medications are a contributing factor for the increase, Hooks pointed out.
Another interesting fact associated with the DWI statistics is that males from the age of 21-29 resulted in approximately 37 percent of the total impaired drivers arrested for all those years.
Fatalities, too, are on the increase. This year, there have been 14 highway deaths, the same number as last year with just over a week left in 2012.
“We hope and pray there aren’t any more, but part of that is the responsibility of drivers to do the right thing,” Hooks said.
And for those who opt not to do the right thing, the Patrol troopers will be out … and watching.
“We will continue to place special emphasis on impaired driving and other hazardous violations, but it is your responsibility to do the right thing while driving.,” Hooks stressed.