Campaign targets road, water safety

Published 10:54 am Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day marks the second of three holiday campaigns aimed at keeping the roads and waterways safe.

On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink & Drive, a joint campaign by the N.C. Highway Patrol and the Wildlife Resources Commission, consists of numerous driving while impaired checkpoints near boating recreational areas.

Both agencies plan to be more aggressive during the summer months, especially during periods when the roads and lakes are the busiest.

“We want people to have a good time on the water, but to keep it safe,” said David Ritzheimer, wildlife officer. “We are looking for impaired operators. That’s one of our top priorities.”

Both Badin Lake and Lake Tillery are popular recreational spots for the Fourth of July.

Ritzheimer warned that impairment from alcohol occurs three times as quick on the water, given the impact of the sun and motion. Impairment adversely affects judgement, which contributes to mishaps including those of deadly consequences.

“We know we’re going to see a lot of activity,” Ritzheimer said.

Along with impaired boat operators, WRC officers will also be focused on enforcing proper lighting on boats, such as the red (port, or left) and green (starboard, or right)  and the all-round white lights that cover the vessel at 360 degrees.

“That’s a big thing we’ll look for,” Ritzheimer said.

Boats are required to have a life jacket, which should fit per weight and chest size, for every occupant of the boat.

Personal watercrafts are prohibited from use between sunset and sunrise.

Last year’s Operation Dry Water, which included the same holidays as this year’s Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, led to the contact of 8,394 boats and netted 771 citations and 1,330 warnings. Seventy-two of the violations were for boaters under the influence, according to WRC.

In 2017, the Highway Patrol investigated 247 fatalities and 9,357 injury collisions during the summer months. This includes 53 fatalities and 840 injuries due to impaired driving.

The Highway Patrol has scheduled checkpoints for Friday through Sunday. Among the agency’s focus will be DWIs, driver’s license, drugs, seatbelt and child restraint violations and registration.

July 4 will not go overlooked. In conjunction with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and sister state agencies across the nation, the Highway Patrol will participate in this year’s Operation CARE (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort). The Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort is a national initiative to increase officer presence on interstate and highways across the nation during specific high crash periods.

There’s also the Highway Patrol’s Booze It & Lose It campaign that runs from June 28-July 8 and calls for “aggressive enforcement” with “an emphasis on impaired driving violations.”

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or