RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- During one of the most heavily traveled stretches of the year, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol is joining other law enforcement agencies in addressing drunk driving.
"We're not here to ruin anybody's Thanksgiving. The choice is really in the hands of the driver. There are so many options now, the (apps) that are available, the options that are there to help somebody get home safely, to avoid life-altering decisions from drinking and driving. There's just no excuses," said First Sgt. Christopher Knox, with NCSHP. "And we want to make sure that if somebody does make those bad choices, we have the people in place to stop them before something bad happens."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend from 2017-2021, more than 830 people died in crashes involving a drunk driver.
"It shouldn't come to a point where we say there are people out there looking to catch if you do wrong. The hope is that people will do right. The hope is that they will take the needed measures to avoid drinking and driving, that they'll plan ahead that way," Knox said. "If they do encounter a checkpoint, they can wave and smile and show their license and keep moving. The goal is not for us to arrest anybody. The goal is for compliance."
In 2021, The National Safety Council reported that 36% of fatalities during this holiday period involved an impaired driver, a figure higher than the annual average.
Further, state leaders are urging parents to be aware of underage drinking, particularly during what is often cited as one of the heaviest-drinking days of the year.
"If you're drinking to the point of blacking out, that is literally an alcohol-induced amnesia. So just the name alone really normalizes some very dangerous behavior. And for a teenager who is consuming alcohol, their brains are still developing. So for them to be consuming alcohol, especially at very high levels, you're talking about a very risky situation," said Rodney Poole, the Programs Coordinator for Talk It Out NC.
The 2021 North Carolina Youth Risk Behavior Survey noted nearly 1 in 5 high schoolers said they drink; of that group, half reported binge drinking.
In North Carolina, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a person younger than 21 years old to attempt to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol.