As the New Year’s holiday approaches, highway patrol officials, as well as state leaders, are reminding motorists to be safe this holiday season, and urging caution and smart decision making as locals travel throughout the New Year’s holiday period.
According to N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. S.F. Cotton, officers across the state, including Sampson County, will beef up patrol beginning Friday and through the holiday weekend. Weather permitting, Cotton said local officers would be conducting check-point stations on many of Sampson County’s roadways.
“As more motorists are hitting the roads this weekend, we encourage drivers to follow all traffic laws, considering the weather, and make adjustments to driving as needed,” Cotton said. “We plan to have all available troopers working and have a heavy presence this weekend.”
The state Highway Patrol department has issued statements, urging safe driving through New Year’s weekend.
According to the statement, troopers will be monitoring driver behavior while focusing on high speed, distracted driving, seatbelt use and driving while impaired violations. State Highway Patrol responded to 2,077 crashes from Dec. 24, 2016 through Jan. 2, 2017. Among those collisions, 735 were injury related and 34 resulted in a fatality.
In Sampson, there has been 15 total fatalities this year, with three of those happening within a 19-hour period last Friday, in three separate accidents. While that number is lower than the 23 total fatalities reported in 2016, Cotton said the patrol officers are still urging highway safety.
“It’s really sad when we have to talk with a family and let them know that their loved one has been injured or killed in an accident,” Cotton shared. “Our hope is that everyone can get where they are going safely.”
According to Cotton, this year’s holiday period began last Friday and ends on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018.
To combat impaired driving, Cotton said troopers will be conducting DWI checkpoints and enforcing all state laws. Throughout Sampson County, Cotton added that the Patrol will be increasing the number of troopers on the roadways and heavily traveled areas.
When traveling the roads during the holidays, Cotton said the Highway Patrol urges motorists to use caution.
“Drive to live,” she shared. “A lot of the times your fatalities happen close to home because drivers think they can ease up on their caution. That isn’t true. We encourage all of our drivers to practice caution and be patient. Many times accidents happen because someone is in a hurry and isn’t paying attention to their surroundings.”
The Highway Patrol will also be participating in the state’s “Booze It and Lose It” anti-drunk driving campaign.
“It’s important for all travelers to have a plan,” Cotton said. “If you know you are going to be drinking, make sure you have a designated driver. Please don’t get on the roads driving if you have been drinking.”
The Highway Patrol is soliciting the public’s help by reporting impaired drivers. Motorists can simply dial *HP or *47 on a cellular phone should they observe an impaired driver.
According the State Highway Patrol office, motorists can help ensure safe travel by following these simple suggestions:
• Be responsible.
• Plan ahead.
• Designate a sober driver.
• Call a cab, friend or family member if you have consumed too much of an alcoholic beverage. Do not drive.
• Spend the night where you are, if possible.
“Don’t drink and drive,” Cotton urged. “It’s important that you have a designated driver and make sure you assign someone that task.”
Cotton urges not only drivers to practice safety, but passengers. North Carolina state law requires all passengers in a vehicle to wear a safety belt. According to the patrol sergeant, this is something many passengers forget, and it often causes unnecessary injuries if there is an accident.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.