RALEIGH, N.C. — The number of drunken driving arrests from last year's
Booze It & Lose It"
campaign is way up. At the same time, the number of drunken driving crashes is slowly decreasing.
State leaders are hesitant to connect the two statistics, but said the state's DWI campaign has been a huge success.
Pass through a DWI checkpoint one time and it will probably convince you drinking and driving is not worth it.
"Anytime you come across a checkpoint, it raises your awareness and consciousness that you don't need to be out there driving after drinking," said Darrell Jernigan,
Governor's Highway Safety Program
Another wake-up call: step inside one of the state's mobile Breath Alcohol Testing units, known as BATmobiles.
"We get whatever that person's alcohol level is at the time of the stop. There's no delay," BAT coordinator Kevin Dean said.
Those tested get two chances with the Intoxilyzer. Testers take lowest reading. Drivers who register .08 or above are going to jail.
During the 2003 "Booze and Lose it Campaign" 13,000 drunken drivers went to jail, the most since 1993.
"The vehicle is as dangerous as a gun," Jernigan said.
He attributes the arrests to more checkpoints and more resources, like two new BATmobiles. Jernigan said alcohol-related crashes and deaths have gone down in the past four years since the state stepped up its efforts.
"The checkpoints do make a difference as far as awareness," Jernigan said.
Raleigh police recently arrested 33 drunken drivers at two DWI checkpoints in an area frequented by nightclub goers. Officers believe the number they deterred is much higher.
"We've seen a number of people coming by with designated drivers and the people in the car were not drinking. We've seen a number of people in taxicabs. That's a positive thing, we like to see that," said Capt. Dennis Lane of the Raleigh Police Department.
"If we can remove one person from the roadways who is driving while impaired and save one life, then we've done our job," Jernigan said.
It is a job that is already well under way in 2004.
During the checkpoints, police catch many other crimes besides drunken driver. During the campaign last year, 62,000 citations were written for other violations.
Drunken Driving Checkpoints Pay Off In Fight Against Crime
BATmobile Hits Road To Stop Drunken Drivers