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Tree of life, candlelight vigil to remember victims of traffic crashes

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

At a memorial service Friday night, a Tree of Life will be dedicated to the 1,705 people who lost their lives on North Carolina roadways in traffic crashes in 2007.

Another 489 people who lost their lives to drunk drivers last year will be remembered in a candlelight vigil.

Justice in Motion, a Wilmington-based nonprofit organization, and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, will host its fourth annual Tree of Life and Candlelight Vigil at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Battleship Park.

Barb Lynch, director of court monitoring programs for Justice in Motion, said in addition to the annual memorial service, Justice in Motion participates in DWI checkpoints, does speaking engagements to local groups and schools and monitors DWI statistics, citations and offenders as they go through North Carolina courts.

Drinking and driving costs North Carolina taxpayers $1 billion per year, Lynch said.

“The drunk driver is the highest cost to society,” Lynch added.

Volunteers with Justice in Motion have monitored more than 40,000 DWI cases as they’ve made their way through the New Hanover County Court system.

In Brunswick and New Hanover counties in 2007, troopers with the N.C. State Highway Patrol issued 1,404 DWI citations in 2007. Nine people died in the two counties as a result of drinking and driving last year.

Two state troopers will be honored for the number of DWI citations issued in 2007. Senior trooper Tony Morrison issued 218 DWI citations in 2007 in New Hanover County, while senior trooper Jonathan Britt issued 65 DWI citations in Brunswick County last year.

Every year, the memorial service’s keynote speaker is someone who lost a loved one to drunk driving. This year’s keynote speaker will be Terry Randolph, whose husband was killed by a drunk driver in Wilmington.

“Terry is a remarkable woman,” Lynch said.

In addition to DWI education and outreach, Justice in Motion also aims to curb underage alcohol consumption.