NCDOT: Have a blast this Fourth of July, but be smart

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the N.C. Department of Transportation will hold its annual “Booze It & Lose It – Operation Firecracker” campaign now through July 4, which runs in conjunction with the Fourth of July holiday. During this time, state and local law enforcement officers will aggressively seek out and arrest drunk drivers, removing them from North Carolina roadways so that citizens can safely celebrate the birth of our nation with friends, family, and our fellow Americans.

“The safety of our citizens is my top priority, especially during the holidays,” said Gov. Pat McCrory. “There will be an increase in law enforcement officers on our roadways, including nine DWI Task Force teams, day and night over the next several weeks to catch drivers who break the law, so plan ahead to get home safely.”

In its 22nd year, the Booze It & Lose It education and enforcement campaign has created increased awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as the penalties associated with driving while impaired. Even with its success, 9,411 people have lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes in North Carolina since the program’s introduction.

The number of fatalities involving drunk drivers increased from 384 in 2014 to 418 in 2015. However, so far in 2016, there have 135 drunk driving fatalities and that is 51 fewer deaths than this time last year.

During last year’s Booze It & Lose It – Operation Firecracker campaign, state and local law enforcement officers arrested 1,785 drunk drivers. Nevertheless, there were 111 crashes that involved drunk drivers, resulting in five fatalities. That was 31 percent of the total fatalities that occurred during the Fourth of July holiday.

The Booze It & Lose It campaign’s mission to keep citizens safe on roadways aligns closely with Governor Pat McCrory’s NC Vision Zero project. NC Vision Zero is an initiative which aims to eliminate traffic related injuries and fatalities in North Carolina. The governor’s goal is to reach zero traffic-related fatalities through coordinated efforts, including those of law enforcement, to reduce risky driving behavior.

“Today we kicked off the Operation Firecracker enforcement campaign in Jacksonville, the home of the brave men and women with the United State Marine Corp at Camp Lejeune, to bring attention not only to their heroic work to protect our freedoms, but also to highlight their work in educating our soldiers on the dangers associated with impaired driving,” said Don Nail, director of the GHSP. “Our Marines risk their lives when serving overseas, we need to make sure that they are safe on our roadways when they come home.”

Everyone has a responsibility to themselves and their fellow motorists to practice safe driving habits. In conjunction with the enforcement campaign, the NCDOT will utilize the “Don’t Drink and Drive. You’re Smarter Than That.” marketing campaign to remind North Carolina citizens on multiple ways to get home safely if they plan to drink alcohol. The campaign encourages planning a way to get home safely in advance by designating a sober driver, downloading a ride app, checking on public transportation availability or programming a taxi number into your mobile phone. All of these methods are easy and effective ways to ensure a safe return home after a night of fun.

It is important to make safe decisions yourself, but it is also important to look out for others. If you know someone who is about to drive impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to their destination. If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement immediately. You could be the difference between life and death.

Join us in keeping this Fourth of July an occasion for celebration. Don’t Drink and Drive. You’re Smarter Than That.

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