CORNELIUS On the eve of the summer boating and driving season, top North Carolina law officers gathered at Blythe Landing Park on Lake Norman Wednesday to announce a multiagency effort to stem the number of fatalities and injuries on roads and waterways.
For the third straight year, the “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign also carries a plea to everyone driving a car or boating from the Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends.
“We are asking the public for assistance in preventing needless injuries,” Maj. Patricia Poole of the State Highway Patrol headquarters in Raleigh announced at Blythe Landing. “If you observe someone who is impaired, please do not hesitate to call your local law enforcement agency.”
Officers said they will conduct sobriety checkpoints and special increased patrols during busy holiday periods, combined with special messaging to boaters and drivers to increase awareness of the dangers of impaired driving.
Pre-launch boat equipment checks also will be performed, Col. Dale Caveny of the law enforcement division of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in Raleigh said at Wednesday’s campaign kickoff.
The statistics are sobering.
Last summer, 28 boaters died and 80 others were seriously injured on North Carolina waterways, Caveny said.
The state ranked ninth in boating wrecks nationally and seventh in boating fatalities, he said.
The dead included one on Lake Norman – a fisherman in Iredell County who “hit hard when he fell overboard,” Sgt. Jeremy Harrill of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said. Harrill monitors waterways in Iredell and Davie counties.
On the state’s roads last summer, 88 deaths and 913 injuries were related to impaired driving, Poole said.
In North Carolina, a driver or vessel operator with a blood-alcohol concentration that meets or exceeds 0.08 or is “appreciably impaired” by alcohol or other drugs is subject to arrest, officers said.
The campaign involves seven state and federal law enforcement agencies and programs, along with local police, county sheriff’s offices and such organizations as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Poole said the number of fatalities and injuries statewide last year stayed steady or fell from previous years, thanks to public awareness campaigns, strong enforcement and the poor economy that saw people drive less.
But “one fatality is too many,” Poole said. “Although it’s unrealistic, we would like zero fatalities and injuries. That is always our goal.”
Marusak: 704-987-3670; on Twitter: @ jmarusak
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