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Authorities warn about impaired driving

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Law enforcement officers will be out in force this week looking for impaired drivers.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone is quick to compare the sight of a motor vehicle accident to American troops encountering improvised explosive devices in foreign lands.

“The most horrific damage that I’ve seen is from car wrecks,” Stone said. “In essence, you’ve got a 3,000-pound bomb going down the road. And if you’re driving 55 and you hit another car at 55, that’s a 110-mile-an-hour collision.

“And it causes more carnage to a body than if it was shot, stabbed or blown up by an IED.”

Those were Stone’s thoughts when asked about the need for holiday motorists not to do foolish things such as driving while impaired on highways and roads in the Twin Counties.

Stone, elected Nash’s top lawman in 2014, speaks from first-hand experience of 30 years as a state trooper, noting, “I’ve been to thousands of car wrecks and been to hundreds of fatalities.”

Law enforcement officers are out in force making sure motorists are obeying the rules of the road as part of North Carolina’s “Booze it and lose it” campaign.

The state is quick to point out motorists caught driving while impaired could face jail time, lose their driving privileges and pay stiff fines, towing fees and other expenses associated with a DWI.

State Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Baker said his agency “absolutely” is concerned about the well-being of people returning this week from extended vacations.

“New Year’s and Christmas is not as heavily traveled (by motorists) as Thanksgiving because most people stay local, within 50 miles from their residence,” Baker said. “But we do anticipate a spike in travel throughout the rest of this week up until this weekend, with people coming back who have visited abroad for Christmas.”

He also said he believes there’s a public misconception about driving while impaired being about drinking before getting behind or while being behind the wheel.

“While alcohol consumption is definitely something that we continue to see, impairment due to illegal or legal drugs is something that we’re seeing an increase in as well,” he said.

Baker said among young people, there’s the possibility of a greater ease of raiding their grandparents’ medicine cabinet than trying to obtain liquor in a state where store operators can’t sell alcohol to those under age 21.

Overall, state Trooper Tommy L. Davis, who’s the Highway Patrol’s traffic safety information officer, had a message for what motorists will encounter when they drink and drive.

“It’s going to be bad” at a wreck scene, he said.

Davis also emphasized the effect on a deceased motorist’s family members isn’t temporary.

“It’s forever,” he said.

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