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Be aware this Labor Day weekend: The ‘Booze It and Lose It’ cops will be everywhere

Law enforcement officers will put on extra patrols and set up sobriety checkpoints through Labor Day to try to catch impaired drivers. One man was killed in this six-car crash in Garner on Sept. 1, 2016, and police charged the driver that set off the crash with DWI and running a red light.
Law enforcement officers will put on extra patrols and set up sobriety checkpoints through Labor Day to try to catch impaired drivers. One man was killed in this six-car crash in Garner on Sept. 1, 2016, and police charged the driver that set off the crash with DWI and running a red light. jalexander@newsobserver.com

Law enforcement agencies in North Carolina are in the midst of their Labor Day campaign to discourage drunk driving. Not only are you more likely to see them on the road from now through the weekend, but you may encounter checkpoints where officers are looking for drivers who have had too much to drink.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Program has been organizing these campaigns for 24 years, mostly around holiday weekends, when fatal crashes are slightly more likely to occur. During the five-day Labor Day weekend last year, from Thursday through Monday, 23 people were killed on North Carolina highways, said Mark Ezzell, director of the highway safety program.

“These are times when we know that people are going to get together and alcohol is going to be consumed and people are going to be on the road,” Ezzell said.

The campaigns are called Booze It and Lose It, a reference to the possibility of losing your license if you’re caught driving under the influence. This year’s Labor Day campaign began last Thursday and runs through Monday.

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A 2007 photo shows Cary Police Officer K. Christian performing field sobriety tests on a motorist during a checking station checkpoint with an emphasis on DWI enforcement at the intersection of E. Chatham St. and Travis Park Drive in Cary. Ethan Hyman 2007 News & Observer file photo

Ezzell says there’s evidence that campaigns like these and other factors are helping reduce drunk driving. The number of traffic deaths involving impaired drivers dropped 28 percent in two years during the Great Recession but have remained steady since then even as the economy has recovered and the state’s population grows.

In 2016, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 354 people died in crashes involving an impaired driver in North Carolina, compared to 497 in 2007.

“It’s clearly a sign that we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s not enough,” Ezzell said.

Another sign of progress, Ezzell says, is that DWI arrests during the July 4 Booze It and Lose It campaign were down this year. In two weeks, law enforcement agencies statewide charged 1,373 drivers with DWI, down from 1,449 the year before.

“This means that drivers are getting it,” Ezzell said at the time.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling
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