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The increase in the number of driving-while-impaired arrests in Brunswick County is alarming.
In the first two-and-a-half months of this year, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office has charged 123 people with driving while impaired (DWI). In the first two months of 2012, BCSO issued just 19 DWIs.
Last year there were 27 fatal wrecks in Brunswick County. Eight of those deaths were attributed to driving while impaired.
Friday night, 17 people were charged with DWI during a multi-agency checkpoint in Brunswick County. Law-enforcement officials said driving while impaired isn’t just limited to nighttime hours; they see impaired driving all hours of the day and night. And the biggest offenders are older adults between the ages of 34 and 55.
Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram recently led an effort to create a collaborative task force to tackle this problem. It is be called the Brunswick Interagency Taskforce Enforcement team (BITE).
Besides the sheriff’s office, other representatives who attended the initial meeting were from the Brunswick County District Attorney’s office, North Carolina Highway Patrol, and police departments in Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island, Shallotte, Leland, Boiling Spring Lakes and Caswell Beach.
The problem is countywide, and a countywide approach to solving the problem seems in order.
“Impaired driving on the roadways of this county has got to stop,” Ingram said. “This is not about glory or recognition. It’s about coming together as a team to make the roads of this county safe for our citizens.”
To appreciate the scope of this problem, one only has to look in the Beacon every week at the number of DWI arrests in the court docket and in the crime reports.
People continue to drive while impaired despite an avalanche of public-awareness campaigns for the past 25 years.
People who drive drunk or high on drugs could (and sometimes do) kill themselves or someone else. At the very least, they face thousands of dollars in hikes in their car insurance, not to mention the time and hassle of going to court.
A DWI arrest is also an impediment to finding a job. Many employers today run criminal-background and driving-conviction checks on job applicants. The ones without DWI arrests are obviously perceived as more reliable potential employees.
We are not naïve enough to think people who like to imbibe are not going to drink. But the smart thing to do is to alternate appointing a designated driver in your group. If that’s not possible, stay at home.
The sheriff and the rest of the task force should be commended for tackling this major problem head-on.