Slow down, put your seatbelt on

Published 7:35 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2014

There’s no doubt more vehicles are on the road during the holiday season, starting this week as many head across town, and others head across the state, to spend Thanksgiving with family. But more cars on the road means more chances for accidents, leading law enforcement to issue a warnings in advance.

“Slow down,” said Sgt. C.W. Lawrence with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. “The majority of the collisions we encounter are speed-related — people traveling exceeding the speed for road conditions, which could include heavy traffic.”

Lawrence said the majority of the division’s 14 troopers and four supervisors, covering Beaufort, Hyde, Washington and Tyrrell counties will be working every day over the holiday weekend.

“The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is usually our busiest travel day in this area — and the state. … There are lots more vehicles on the road,” Lawrence said, adding that many people come through Beaufort County on their way to do traditional after-Thanksgiving shopping locally or farther west, in Greenville and Raleigh.

Stepped-up patrols and additional troopers on duty over high-travel holidays is not a new concept in North Carolina: the Governor’s Highway Safety Program has issued statewide “Click It or Ticket,” “No Need 2 Speed” and “Booze It & Lose It” campaigns during the holiday season for the past two decades. “Click It or Ticket,” a seatbelt check campaign, starts today and runs through the weekend.

Last year, from Nov. 25 to Dec. 1, law enforcement handed out 170 speeding tickets, 47 occupant-restraint tickets, 299 citations for other traffic violations and made 10 DWI arrests in Beaufort County, according to the Governors’ Highway Safety Program statistics.

Lawrence said the district’s Highway Patrol troopers will have multiple checkpoints in the area from Wednesday through Saturday this week, and keep those checkpoints mobile to cover a larger area.

Capt. Charlie Rose, head of the patrol division for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies will focus their patrols on residential neighborhoods as a deterrent to thieves who might take advantage of homeowners who’ve gone out of town — and left their homes unprotected — for the holiday weekend.

Washington Police will be participating in the “Click It or Ticket” initiative over the next four days, said Washington Police and Fire Services Director Stacy Drakeford. Drakeford also issued some words of warning for those venturing out for holiday shopping: “Do not leave your cars unlocked; do not leave your packages on the back seat — put them in your trunk; keep your pocket books close to you and just be aware of your surroundings,” Drakeford said.