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Booze It and Lose It targets St. Patrick's celebrations

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Officials from The Governor’s Highway Safety Program, along with law enforcement and community volunteers gathered at Sup Dogs in Greenville, to hold the statewide Booze It & Lose It St. Patrick’s Day Kickoff in Greenville, on Thursday,.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Friday, March 15, 2019

Nearly 370 people died in North Carolina due to alcohol related crashes in 2017 — a statistic government officials and law enforcement agencies are trying to change.  

That’s why the state’s Booze It and Lose It campaign brought its BAT mobile to Greenville on Thursday as revelers prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day festivities through the weekend.

“This is a campaign we do all across North Carolina during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend to publicize the importance of not drinking and driving,” Mark Ezzell, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program said during a news conference in front of the mobile blood alcohol testing (BAT) lab in downtown Greenville. 

The publicity blitz is the educational component of Booze It and Lose It, Ezzel said. The second component includes checkpoints and enforcement to catch drunken and impaired drivers in Greenville and across the state, he said.

“You’re going to see law enforcement that has partnered with us all across the state. They’re going to really be out in force this weekend keeping North Carolinians safe,” Ezzell said.

The Booze It and Lose It campaign is in its 25th year, and Ezzell said the program is working well to reduce alcohol related crashes.  

“We know it’s made a difference. We’ve seen drunk driving and impaired driving crashes decrease in North Carolina but we want to see them decrease more.”

Currently, the state has seven BAT mobiles to assist law enforcement checkpoints by processing suspects on the spot.

The state of the art vehicles are equipped with breath alcohol testing instruments, officer workstations, wireless printers, cellphones, Wi-Fi hotspots, finger printing equipment and some even have jail cells and a magistrate’s office on board.

“These things go all across North Carolina to make things easier for law enforcement to catch folks who’ve broken the law,” Ezzell said. 

In North Carolina, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while noticeably impaired or with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. When driving a commercial motor vehicle, the limit is 0.04. 

Motorists caught driving while impaired could face jail time, lose their driving privileges and pay an average of $10,000 in fines, towing fees and other expenses associated with a DWI.

The BAT mobile wasn’t the only tool to promote the campaign Thursday afternoon.  

Volunteers including students from East Carolina University canvassed area neighborhoods near the main campus to help spread the message.  

“Part of the message we’re trying to get out here is most people, including college students do the right thing,” Ezzell said. “When in your college, you’re under the mistaken impression that everybody on campus drinks. That’s not true. The fact is, most folks don’t, and those that do, generally do so in a more responsible manner than many of their suitemates or roommates may think,” Ezzell said.  

Ezzell added, most people in North Carolina “wear their seat belt, they drive sober and they drive responsibly; it’s just a few outliers.”

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.  

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