Local News

Troopers Keep Eyes in the Sky and on the Road

Posted November 24, 2007 10:02 p.m. EST
Updated November 25, 2007 4:32 p.m. EST

— The death toll on North Carolina's roads for the Thanksgiving holiday was up, even as state troopers used helicopters and other methods to catch speeders during the Thanksgiving holiday.

By early Sunday afternoon, 13 motorists had died in motor-vehicle accidents since the Thanksgiving holiday officially began at midnight Tuesday. That's an increase of two over 2006, when 11 motorists were killed on North Carolina highways during the holiday – the lowest total in three years.

The force launched Operation Slowdown on Nov. 13 to aggressively target speeders on interstates and major four-lane highways. The crackdown will end Sunday at midnight.

“I have instructed our troopers to crackdown on speeders this holiday weekend,” said Col. W. Fletcher Clay, commander of the state Highway Patrol. “Getting to your destination safely should be your number one goal. Don’t try to cut off a few minutes of your drive time by speeding or driving aggressively. It’s just not worth it.”

Six Highway Patrol helicopters will mount into the skies to monitor traffic on major interstates. A trooper will be on board with a radar device to track drivers' speed.

Interstate 40 will be one hot spot targeted by troopers and their helicopters.

"I-40 is one of the heaviest travel highways in North Carolina, especially in the Raleigh, Johnston County, Durham area," Lt. Everette Clendenin, spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said. "Close to a million cars travel that particular stretch of highway daily."

Speed is a leading factor in traffic fatalities and collisions in the state.

“Every 5 ½ hours, someone is killed on our state’s highways, and speed is a leading cause of these fatalities,” said Brian Beatty, state secretary of crime control and public safety.

In addition, troopers are on motorcycles and in unmarked cars clocking speeders. They have stationed cars at various points on the highways in hopes of slowing drivers down.

The winter Booze It and Lose it campaign also got under way this weekend. Sobriety checkpoints are set up around the Triangle to look for people drinking and driving.

Last year's campaign ran from Thanksgiving Day until New Year's Day. It netted 3,523 DWI charges and more than 116,700 traffic and criminal citations statewide.

Motorists can report speeders and drunk drivers to the Highway Patrol by dialing *HP (*47) on their cellular phones. The toll-free call goes directly to the nearest Highway Patrol communication center.