Stay safe on summer travels

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Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, and despite what the calendar shows, summer is under way in Brunswick County.

That means balmy weather, lots of recreational activities and festivals for residents and vacationers — and the return of a huge increase in traffic on our roadways as visitors flock to our community.

Careless and impaired drivers are hazards at any time of year, but odds are their numbers will increase exponentially based on the sheer number of motorists in our area at this time of year.

It is easy to understand how drivers can get distracted by Brunswick County’s beauty and attractions or become impatient as they try to follow directions to their hotels, beach houses or restaurants (or, in the case of residents, become frustrated by traffic delays as they try to get to their usual home or work destinations).

And when people are off the clock and relaxed, they tend to let their guards down, get carried away in the fun they are having and misjudge how much alcohol they have had to drink.

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, like the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, is working extra hard to safeguard us on our travels. Seat belt and checking stations are being conducted throughout the county all summer long. The goal is not to issue tons of tickets or spoil anyone’s day; rather, it is to ensure motorists are obeying the law and keep those who are impaired by alcohol or drugs — including prescription medications that can affect a person’s motor skills — off the roads.

“The drinking and driving and not wearing your seat belt do not mix well with a heavy traffic increase. The roads are already facing heavy congestion,” said 1st Sgt. Jeremiah King, who supervises special operations for the sheriff’s office. “We want people to enjoy the area, but we want them to do it as safely as possible. We don’t want impaired drivers and unrestrained drivers and passengers out on our roads.”

The ultimate objective is to prevent traffic injuries and fatalities. In 2013, 14 people died on North Carolina roads during the Memorial Day holiday weekend— the most for that time period in four years.

As members of the motoring public, it is up to us to do our part in this prevention effort. Exercise a little patience and a lot of common sense as you travel through the county.

Law enforcement officers should not have to remind anyone to wear his or her seat belt or make sure children are properly restrained in vehicles or not to drink and drive or ride with an impaired driver.

But they do, and so do we at the Beacon.

Please drive carefully this summer — and all year round.