Not everything about the holidays was jolly, at least for those who found themselves pulled over by Highway Patrol troopers intent on keeping the roadways safe and violators from driving drunk, speeding or failing to buckle their children up in child restraint seats.
It was, said Patrol Sgt. Bryan Smith, the intent of the Highway Patrol’s annual Holiday Booze It and Lose It campaign which, this year, netted a total 534 charges in Sampson County alone during a period from Dec. 7 through Jan. 2.
“We would love it if we never had to give another citation,” Smith stressed, “but as long as there are violators on our highways, we are going to be out there enforcing the laws and doing everything we can to keep the traveling public safe.”
That’s what the holiday campaigns are all about, a ramped up effort during the busiest times of the year to keep travelers obeying the laws of the roads.
“Overall, I think our campaign was a success,” Smith said, noting that there was, however, fewer total charges leveled in 2012 compared to 2011.
“I think that’s a combination of things,” the trooper stressed. “For one thing, people are driving less and, quite frankly, I believe many are slowing down, which is a very good thing.”
Coupled with that is a reduction in the number of troopers available to patrol the roadways. In Sampson, right now, that count is down by three and, Smith said, that makes a difference in the saturation troopers can make during campaigns.
The Patrol sergeant hopes, too, that the lower number from 2011 to 2012 have something to do with troopers’ intent on educating the public to the need to follow highway laws, particularly those relating to speeding, drunk driving, wearing seat belts and, of course, never texting while behind the wheel of a vehicle.
“We keep preaching those things and we hope people are paying attention,” Smith said.
The total number of citations written during the Booze It holiday campaign reflect violators charged at multi-agency checkpoints, during traffic stops initiated from routine patrols and the random license check points that Patrol officers often do.
In all, 25 people over the age of 21 were cited for driving while impaired as compared to 31 in 2011. There were four individuals under age 21 cited this year for DWI. In 2011, that number was only one.
In addition, other tickets written included 103 seatbelt citations (151 in 2011); 12 child restraint (25 in 2011); 101 speeding (253 in 2011); 59 driving while license revoked (111 in 2011); five uninsured motorists (12 in 2011); and 12 reckless driving (15 in 2011). And there were 145 other charges listed simply as other traffic violations for 2012 for a total of 534 total violations.
In 2011, that total was 1,083.
Campaigns such as Booze It and Lose It will be held throughout the year, Smith said, in addition to other multi-agency checkpoints and various other patrol program, all aimed at keeping drivers safe.
“Enforcing the law is our job,” Smith said, “and we are going to be out there watching for those violators. We hope that people will heed our warnings and follow the laws because they are in place for everyone’s protection.”