LUMBERTON — The state Highway Patrol will be busy tonight as revelers ring in the New Year, with patrolmen watching for motorists who mix drinking and driving and threaten to crash the party.
That New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday this year enhances the need for stepped-up patrols, according to 1st Sgt. Ardeen Hunt of the state Highway patrol.
“We’ll be conducting random checkpoints and doing some saturation patrols in general areas where we frequently arrest DWIs,” Hunt said. “That’s basically what we’ll be focusing on, is keeping the drunk drivers off the roadways.”
Hunt said the Highway Patrol will have at least 10 checkpoints set up throughout the county today.
“We’ll probably have a larger volume of people out and about due to the fact that it is falling on a weekend instead of the middle of the week,” he said. “… That would be a key focus in our part.”
Last year in Robeson County, the Highway Patrol set up 40 checkpoints and 66 saturation patrols from Dec. 3, 2010, through Jan. 2 of this year. Those efforts netted 86 DWI arrests, 724 speeding violations and 22 drug violations among other charges, Hunt said.
Statewide during the same period, the Highway Patrol garnered a total 140,830 charges, including 3,873 DWI arrests.
In North Carolina, the blood alcohol content limit is .08 percent for a person over 21 years of age. Hunt said that a number of factors can affect a person’s blood alcohol content, including the person’s weight, sex and whether or not they’ve consumed any food.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, someone convicted on DWI for the first time could face up to two years in prison, a $2,000 fine and revocation of their driver’s license for a year.
Hunt urges drivers taking to the highways this weekend to leave enough time to travel to your destination, and to obey posted speed limits.
“By all means, do not drink and drive,” he said. “Have a designated driver if you plan to partake in any alcoholic beverages while enjoying the New Years festivities.”
If you plan to consume alcohol this weekend, State Farm Insurance and Mothers Against Drunk Driving compiled a list of tips to help you ring in the new year safely:
— Choose a designated driver. Decide who’s going to be doing the driving before you go out, and make sure that person doesn’t drink any alcoholic beverages.
— Call a taxi. Sometimes even the designated driver slips. If nobody in your group is sober, take alternate transportation. Cab, train, bus, horse and buggy — anything’s better than getting in the car with a drunken driver.
— Hide keys. Don’t be afraid to take someone’s car keys. If the person gets angry, it’s probably proof you’re doing the right thing.
Or, if you plan on hosting a party:
— Offer non-alcoholic beverages. Water, juice, soda — give your guests plenty of alternatives. And never pressure guests to drink alcohol.
— Serve plenty of food. A full stomach can slow the rate of alcohol absorption. Serve a great meal or have plenty of appetizers on hand.
— Stop serving alcohol well before the party ends. Give your guests an extra hour or two without alcohol before they head out the door.
— Arrange alternate transportation. Pay attention to your guests’ alcohol intake and behavior. If someone has had a lot to drink or seems even the slightest bit tipsy, call a cab or set up a ride with a sober driver.
Hunt said that to report problems or request assistance, drivers can dial *HP on their cell phones.