Patrol on watch for safe new year

First Posted: 12/31/2009

LUMBERTON After at least five years without a single alcohol-related vehicular fatality in Robeson County during the New Years holiday, the state Highway Patrol will be working hard tonight to keep that streak going.
As usual, we are going to be out in full force, said 1st Sgt. Freddy Johnson of the Highway Patrol. There will be a saturation of patrols out on New Years Eve.
The Highway Patrol, along with the Robeson County Sheriffs Office, the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, and other local police agencies, will have lawmen scattered around the county, setting up checkpoints on roads they consider to be trouble areas.
Sgt. Daniel Hilburn with the Highway Patrol said that officials will be wolf packing moving to one area for a certain amount of time and moving to another if little or no activity occurs.
It really is like a pack of wolves, Hilburn said. Its very effective.
Lawmen will also move checkpoints to coincide with complaints or calls regarding drunken drivers.
A total of 3,242 vehicular accidents happened in Robeson County this year, down from 3,315 in 2008; 192 of the accidents in 2009 were alcohol related, down from 230 in 2008.
Alcohol was a factor in 14 of the 35 fatal vehicular accidents this year.
During New Years Eve in 2008, more than 30 drunken drivers were arrested in Robeson County, according to Johnson.
Hilburn said that in his experience, more alcohol-related arrests actually occur during the week of Christmas than during the New Years holiday. He said people make plans on New Years for drinking, which makes them a little more cautious but on Christmas, people who did not plan on consuming alcohol may be offered a drink or two while visiting homes of friends and family.
During the week of Christmas, the Highway Patrol made 13 arrests in Robeson County for alcohol violations.
Lawmen advise people who plan on drinking alcohol to plan for a designated driver or perhaps use a taxi service. It could pay to do so.
According to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, a charge for driving under the influence is a misdemeanor, but comes with some serious consequences. Fines vary between $200 and $4,000, a license can be revoked for a year which comes after it is immediately suspended for 30 days, and an offender can serve anywhere between 24 hours to two years behind bars.
A judge decides the severity of the punishment depending on prior convictions, an offenders driving record, and the blood alcohol content of the offender.
We want everyone to have a good time, but we encourage people to be responsible and have designated drivers, Johnson said.

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