Slow down and enjoy the holidays

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This is the time of year when we think of all that we have to do in preparation for Christmas and while we fume over the number of vehicles crowding the roadways, we sometimes get in too big a hurry.

That seems to have been the reason for two crashes on U.S. 13 last week.

The first occurred when a young man was hurrying from a visit in North Carolina to his job in Norfolk at around 8:50 a.m. on a rainy Monday morning. Passing eight vehicles at a high rate of speed, according to state troopers, he slammed head-on into a pickup truck headed south on the highway.

Needless to say, speed was critical in the accident, but I am left to wonder if the 24-year old didn’t realize he should slow down due to a pouring rain and fairly dark skies.

Another problem may be that there is no sign in the northbound lane indicating an intersection coming up when drivers approach the area of Paige Riddick Road and U.S. 13. I wonder if that young man would have attempted to pass one vehicle, let alone eight, had there been a warning sign. Maybe the highway department needs to look into this.

On the southbound lane, coming from Virginia, there is a sign indicating the intersection but it may as well be absent, too. It is hidden from drivers’ view by several other signs in front of it.

As for driving during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, be sure to buckle-up just in case you are involved in an accident.

Statistics show, and a Friday night accident at the same site proves, that seatbelts do save lives. In that accident, a young woman ran off the road into the woods and she escaped with minor injuries. Had she not been buckled in, she could have been through the windshield.

More than 1,531 people died in North Carolina car crashes in 2003. Car crashes cost the state $8.27 billion in 2000.

Alcohol was involved in more than 3 out of 10 of NC’s car crash deaths. Also, speed was a factor in 37 percent of the state’s car crash deaths, costing $1.43 million in 2000. More than 4 out of 10 passenger vehicle occupants killed had no seatbelt or child seat, including six children under age 5.

Speed and aggressive drivers are the leading cause of traffic deaths in our state. The aggressive driver has been identified as those who flagrantly violate motor vehicle laws, including but not limited to excessive speeding, following too closely, erratic lane changes and safe movement violations.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol will also be participating in the state’s Booze It and Lose It anti-drunk driving campaign and the national Combined Accident Reduction Effort, (Operation C.A.R.E). Sobriety checkpoints are being held throughout the state during the entire week.

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is considered by the NC Highway Patrol to be the deadliest all year. But, the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are also dangerous times on the highways.

In Gates County, Sheriff Edward E. Webb will have his officers out in force for two reasons; to insure the safety of sober drivers and to stop drunk drivers.

They will be taking part in the “Booze It & Lose It” campaign which kicked off Nov. 17. There will be traffic stops and drivers should be prepared for the consequences of drunk driving, speeding or any other infraction of the law.

The last statewide “Booze It & Lose It” campaign took place at the end of the summer and led to the arrest of more than 3,100 for driving while impaired (DWI).

Rest assured that Sheriff Webb and his deputies are not trying to dampen the holiday spirit, but only to raise awareness of North Carolina’s DWI laws and the importance of

compliance with those laws.

Getting to your destination safely should be your number one goal and I would ask each of you, please don’t try to cut off a few minutes of your drive time by speeding or driving aggressively. It’s just not worth it… at least not from what I saw last week.