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Booze It & Lose It campaign kicks off Monday

This years campaign runs from June 28-July 4.
Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 9:27 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2021 at 3:09 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - First responders were honored in Greenville Thursday morning during the launch of this year’s Booze It & Lose It campaign ahead of the Fourth of July.

The campaign, called Operation Firecracker, works to keep impaired drivers off of the road. Starting on Monday, checkpoints will be set up in all 100 counties to help catch drunk drivers and reduce fatalities.

For the first time in 18 months, officials kicked off the event in-person at the Greenville Convention Center on Thursday to celebrate the hard work and sacrifices made by health care workers, emergency medical services, law enforcement, military personnel and other first responders during the pandemic.

So far this year, 145 people have died in alcohol and drug-related crashes in North Carolina.

“Now that is a decrease from last year,” program director Mark Ezzell said. “But it’s still unacceptably high.”

Ezzell also reported 15 deaths in Pitt County last year from alcohol and drug-related crashes. He added there’s a lot of work to do to meet the goal of reaching zero traffic-related fatalities in the state.

The message to don’t drink and drive is louder as more travelers hit the road amid eased COVID-19 restrictions and the vaccine available.

“It is our fervent hope we don’t substitute one public health crisis for another,” Ezzell said. “It’s our hope that this time as we’re dealing with less Covid this year, that we’re also dealing with less dangerous behavior on our roads and give these good folks [first responders] an opportunity to take a break.”

Speakers also included emergency medicine physician for ECU and Vidant Dr. Jason Hack, Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance and U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. Charlyne Jacobs.

“With the summer and upcoming holidays and people emerging from quarantine, emergency departments across the state and the first responders you see here today will unfortunately see increases in people, especially young people, injured or killed when someone makes the unforgiveable decision to drink and drive,” Hack said.

Seven breath alcohol testing (BAT)mobile units will assist in catching impaired drivers. Inside are breath alcohol testing instruments as well as a Magistrate’s office that can cut the process of charging individuals with a DWI in half.

“The time it takes for an officer to process your normal impaired driving can run anywhere from 2-3 hours depending on how quick it is in the jail and there in Magistrate’s office,” assistant program supervisor Bryon Varnell said. “We can cut that time down to about 45 minutes. But primarily we’re here to turn the officers back around and get them back on the road, checking licenses, stopping cars, to get them working faster, to get more impaired drivers off the road.”

Pitt County Sheriff Paula S. Dance said the pandemic created an opportunity for deputies and officers to stay up-to-date on education and enforcement of driving while impaired.

“Everyone is responsible. Make good choices, and do not drink and drive,” Dance said. “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 runs from June 28-July 4.

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