Highway Patrol urges travel safety

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 22, 2003

AHOSKIE – One of the busiest times on area roadways is officially upon us and local law enforcement agencies are on alert to deal with the expected increase in traffic.

According to Sgt. B.A. Jones of the North Carolina Highway Patrol (NCHP) office in Ahoskie, local motorists should plan to leave a bit earlier for their family Christmas celebrations in order to arrive on time. To help motorists safely reach their destinations, Sgt. Jones said that NCHP troopers would be out in force, keeping a close watch for DWI offenders, speeders and those not adhering to the state’s strict seat belt and child safety restraint laws.

&uot;The biggest thing I see on our roadways is that motorists are in just too big of a hurry,&uot; said Sgt. Jones. &uot;That’s noticeable on every day of the year, but now, with a big increase in traffic because of the holidays, speed, coupled with not using seat belts, can prove deadly.&uot;

He continued, &uot;Please, slow down and use extra caution during holiday travel. Expect traffic to be a lot heavier than normal, so plan ahead by leaving earlier so you can arrive on time. We want you and your loved ones to enjoy a safe and happy holiday and that all starts with abiding by the rules of the road.&uot;

Sgt. Jones said he expects the holiday traffic &uot;rush&uot; to begin on Christmas Eve and last through the weekend.

&uot;We’ll concentrate our patrols on the major highways and on roads where data has shown to be accident-prone areas,&uot; he promised. &uot;We’ll be paying very close attention to those who choose to consume alcohol and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. I would urge those who choose to drink alcohol to please not drive. If you do plan to drink, even if it’s just one drink, make prior arrangements for someone to drive you home.&uot;

The local NCHP office will continue their current &uot;Booze It and Lose It&uot; campaign – a statewide effort of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program that has been ongoing for the past four weeks. That effort has led to nearly 100,000 traffic and criminal citations across the state.

Last week in the Roanoke-Chowan area, Sgt. Jones said the campaign nabbed four motorists for DWI and 74 others for speeding. He stated that 21 citations were issued for seat belt/child safety restraint violations.

&uot;A lack of proper restraint coupled with speed and the use of alcohol are a deadly mix,&uot; he stressed. &uot;Please buckle-up, slow down and don’t drink and drive.&uot;

Sgt. Jones said that the &uot;Booze It and Lose It&uot; campaign would continue through the New Year’s holiday.

One of the biggest deterrents to drinking and driving along with excessive speed and failing to buckle-up are the fines associated with those traffic violations.

According to a report from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the cost of a first-time impaired driving conviction, including everything from attorney fees and court costs to increased insurance rates and other fees, totals more than $9,500. That figure does not take into account lost wages due to court appearances.

&uot;There’s no question that the smart money is on the sober driver,&uot; said Darrell Jernigan, Director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. &uot;If you’re not motivated by the fact that driving while impaired is against the law and dangerous, compare that $9,500 to what it costs to call a cab or to make other arrangements to celebrate safely.&uot;

Other traffic violation fines are not cheap – $75 for failing to wear a seat belt, $125 for not properly restraining a child passenger and $100 (minimum) for speeding.

&uot;This is not the time of the year to face added financial burden,&uot; concluded Sgt. Jones. &uot;The good news is that those unwanted bills, in the form of traffic violations, are 100 percent preventable by obeying the laws.&uot;