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Medical & Transportation Leaders Call Impaired Driving Another Lingering Health Challenge


​RALEIGH - From today through Sunday, law enforcement agencies from across all 100 counties and around the nation, are increasing saturation patrols with a goal of removing impaired drivers from roadways. 

The increased enforcement is one component of the annual ‘Booze It & Lose It’ St. Patrick’s Day enforcement campaign; the other is education. 

“Impaired driving isn’t just a law enforcement issue, it’s a health issue,” Mark Ezzell, director of the NC Governor’s Highway Safety Program, said during a virtual press conference with Dr. Betsey Tilson, North Carolina’s State Health director, and Joey Chafatelli and Mira McPeek, who are nurse team members with UNC Air Care. Dr. James Larson, director of UNC’s Emergency Department, also participated in the press conference. 

NCDOT is responsible for one of the nation's largest highway systems, which includes about 80,000 miles of state-maintained roads and more than 8 million registered vehicles. 

“It’s those 8 million people who have the power to be true heroes this St. Patrick’s Day,” said state Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette. “We can’t rely on luck. Each and every driver, rider, scooter or walker has to make a life-or-death choice today. Will you choose to participate in the 100 percent preventable crime of impaired driving? Or will you choose life for yourself and those around you?”  

Drunk driving crashes have a ripple effect on lives, infrastructure, the economy, and even the state’s health care system. 

“We know we know we've had an uptick in people using opioids; we know there's an uptick in people using alcohol; it’s happening unfortunately when people go through a crisis like this (COVID-19). So, it's even more important now to be thinking about impaired driving because those rates of substance abuse disorders are going up as a result of the trauma of this pandemic," Tilson said.  

The solution, experts say, is for drivers to simply think first. Take a cab, rideshare, designate a driver or take public transportation. 

“You have to have a plan if you’re going out, especially if you’re going to drink alcohol. The reason we feel so strongly about this is we see what happens when people are driving impaired,” Larson said.  

Larson and UNC Air Care members shared field stories of treating people involved in impaired driving crashes. 

“Your life can change in a second,” Larson said. “You can go from somebody whose living their life and being able to do what they want to do to being significantly injured. If you’re in a serious crash, it’s not just you, you may cause the injury of other people in your car, or somebody else or a pedestrian; and you'll have a lifetime of regret over that. And that's something that can change in a second based on decisions that you make.”  

Health and transportation officials ask that you share the attached message on every platform including social media using the hashtags #keysfreenc / #NCGHSP and #BooseIt&LoseIt and follow @NCGHSP on Facebook and @NC_GHSP on Twitter and Instagram to help shift the culture of acceptable impaired driving. 

For media inquiries, contact The Governor’s Highway Safety Program Communications Specialist Miracle King at 919-814-3657 or 


3/17/2021 5:06 PM