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Deputies use checkpoints to teach teens about drunk driving

Teachers say having high schoolers and their parents see officers arrest motorists for drunken driving first-hand makes a big, and possibly lifelong, impact.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Law enforcement agents used sobriety checkpoints to teach teenagers about the dangers of drinking and driving on Friday night.

Approximately 60 officers from nine agencies conducted a checkpoint at Fayetteville and Legend roads in Wake County as part of the statewide "Booze It and Lose It" campaign.

High schoolers and their parents were on hand to see officers arrest 11 people for driving while impaired and issue one felony and one misdemeanor drug charge.

"It brings reality to the myth of drinking and driving," said Jack Lister, a Wake County public-school teacher and instructor with Jordan Driving School. "When they get out here and see what it looks like to be drunk, ... that has a real impact on a student's life."

Gary Nagy, of Raleigh, brought his 16-year-old and 15-year-old sons and nephew, a college sophomore, to the checkpoint. Nagy said he hopes the experience shakes them out of any complacency about drunk driving.

"I'm looking for this to shock them, so when they have to make that tough decision, I want them to make the right decision," Nagy said.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison talked to the students, and a BATmobile, one of the state's six mobile breath-testing units, made an appearance at the checkpoint.

When a drug dog made a hit in a car, Lister used it as a teaching moment.

"Every time (an officer) pulls over a car, they take a risk," he told the teens. "Think about that just a second: If they do a traffic stop and they're out on the street by themselves, they never know what that car has got in it; you never know what an officer's going to run into."

Agents issued 124 charges against 74 people, including 11 citations for driving with a revoked license, nine for driving without a license and one for carrying a concealed weapon.

The Raleigh Police Department conducted a checkpoint at St. Mary's Street late Friday until 4 a.m. Saturday. The checkpoint netted nine arrests for DWI and 38 other charges, RPD spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

State officials chose to launch the Labor Day "Booze It & Lose It" campaign Friday, because the date – 08.08.08 – served as a remind for the legal blood alcohol concentration – 0.08.

Lister said a partnership with the Wake County Sheriff's Office has enabled him to bring students out to sobriety checkpoints nearly a dozen times.

"It's made a difference from day one," he said. "I have students who have graduated and gone onto college, who come back and talk to me about how, 'That DWI traffic stop I went to changed my life. When the opportunity came and it was time for me to drive, I made a phone call and called a taxi instead of driving while impaired, because I've seen the things that can happen.'"

Getting parents involved in such programs is also key to fighting drunken driving among teens and young adults, Lister said.

"Education starts at home. .... When we start talking about drinking and driving, it has gone to be supported in the house," Lister said. "So when I bring parents out here, and they stand right beside their son and watch the checkpoint go on and see how it impacts people's lives, I think that's a tremendous impact in a child's life and in a parent's life."

Nagy said that after bringing his oldest son to a checkpoint, he made sure that his younger son and nephew got the chance to see one in action.

"(My nephew) is exposed to a lot of this, with a lot of college students, and I think it's a great lesson he can take back and share with his buddies of what he's going to experience tonight," Nagy said.

Law-enforcement agents, educators and parents agreed that ultimately, the goal of the checkpoints is to save lives.

"Drinking and driving affects everybody. .... We've lost quite a few students here in Wake County in the last three or four years," Lister said.

Since April, six people have died in crashes involving alleged drunken drivers in Raleigh. In 2007, alcohol-related crashes killed nearly 500 people and severely injured more than 9,000 statewide.

"At the end of the day, we want them (our children) to make good decisions, the one that's not going to impact them for the rest of their lives, but ... most importantly, not hurt someone else for the rest of their lives," Nagy said.



Greg Clark, Photographer
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