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STATE: Officials urge everyone to avoid drinking, driving during Fourth of July, summer

Do your part to keep the Fourth of July and the rest of the summer safe by never driving if you are impaired.

That was the key message at Thursday’s kickoff of the annual North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program’s Fourth of July Booze It & Lose it campaign, dubbed “Operation Firecracker,” in Greenville.

Operation Firecracker aims to prevent alcohol-related crashes by targeting impaired drivers during the July 4 holiday season. This year’s campaign runs June 28-July 4 with law enforcement agencies running sobriety checkpoints in all 100 counties to help catch drunk drivers and reduce fatalities.

“With the summer, upcoming holidays and people emerging after quarantine — emergency departments across the state, and the first responders you see here today, will unfortunately see increases in people (especially teenagers and young people) injured or killed after making the unforgivable decision to drink and drive — a tragedy that is completely avoidable,” said Dr. Jason Hack, emergency medicine physician for East Carolina University and Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

Thursday’s event celebrated the hard work and sacrifices made by health care workers, emergency medical services, law enforcement, military personnel and other first responders during the pandemic. Speakers urged North Carolina drivers to help emergency responders by not drinking and driving.

“They have been keeping us and our families, friends and neighbors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina,” said Mark Ezzell, director of the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “And they will be working again to keep us safe this Fourth of July, when many of us are vacationing and enjoying time with friends and family.

“We are grateful for their hard work. But I hope they will not have to handle any impaired driving cases this July 4th holiday.”

So far in 2021, 145 people have died in alcohol and drug-related crashes in North Carolina. While that is a decrease from this time last year, it’s not enough.

“Law enforcement will be proactively assuring our roads are safe from those that persist in drinking and driving,” said Pitt County Sheriff Paula S. Dance. “We want everyone to survive by calling a taxi, Uber, Lyft or a friend.

“This one decision — drive or don’t drive — will affect everyone on the road. Make it a good decision. Save a life. It could be your own.”

The Booze It & Lose It campaign is one of the many traffic safety campaigns led by NCGHSP, which also funds Click It or Ticket, BikeSafe NC, Watch For Me NC and North Carolina’s Vision Zero initiative.

Support this cause by taking pictures and use the hashtags #BoozeIt&LoseIt, #DriveSoberGetPulledOver and #NCGHSP this Fourth of July holiday.