Roadblocks, 'Booze It & Lose It' promote driver awareness

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   The Tennessee Highway Patrol will be conducting driver license roadblocks at several locations in Carter County beginning Sunday, July 28, through Aug. 17.
   THP says it has found the roadblocks to be an effective means of enforcing the state's driver license laws while ensuring the protection of all motorists. During the roadblock, troopers will concentrate their efforts on vehicles being operated by drivers who violate the law, including unlicensed drivers, those driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, and those who fail to buckle up.
   Following is a schedule of THP roadblocks for Carter County:
   * July 28-Aug. 3: State Route 67 and U.S. Highway 321;
   * Aug. 4-Aug. 10: State Route 359 and State Route 361;
   * Aug. 11-17: State Route 400.
   In 1937, Tennessee became the 32nd state to enact a driver license law, issuing 521,571 licenses during the first year. Today, the state's licensed drivers total 4.1 million.
   "Click It or Ticket," an annual campaign sponsored by the Governor's Highway Safety Office, state law enforcement agencies and public health officials, is aimed at reducing serious injuries and fatalities among those 4.1 million drivers by reminding them to buckle up. Drivers who are unbuckled, or who have children in the vehicle not properly restrained, are ticketed if stopped by law enforcement.
   Joe Sutton of the Governor's Highway Safety Office said that in addition to the Click It or Ticket program, a public awareness, alcohol countermeasures program called "Booze It & Lose It" is being promoted across the state with intense enforcement and public awareness.
   "Click It or Ticket focuses on safety belts and child restraint devices. Booze It & Lose It is to deter people from drinking and driving," Sutton said.
   The program focuses on the consequences for drivers "who make the not-so-wise choice to drink and drive: what your chances are and what you're subject to lose if you're caught drinking and driving," Sutton said. "You lose your license, you lose your freedom, you could also lose your life."
   In 2001, 343 drivers were arrested in Carter County for driving under the influence. That number was up from the 316 DUI arrests countywide in the year 2000.
   The Elizabethton Twins, along with the Governor's Highway Safety Office, will sponsor "Booze it & Lose It Night" Friday, Aug. 2, at Joe O'Brien Field. Baseballs will be given to all Twins fans during the Twins vs. Astros game, which begins at 7 p.m. The Twins and the safety office also sponsored "Click It or Ticket Night" July 12 as a means of increasing awareness.
   Since its inception last year, "Click It or Ticket" has resulted in a 20 percent increase in seat belt usage across the state. The increase is nearly double that of surrounding states in the eight-state region which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.
   According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes are a leading cause of death, with failure to buckle up contributing to more fatalities than any other single traffic safety-related behavior. Every hour, at least one person in this country dies because he or she didn't buckle up.
   Drivers are responsible for themselves and for all children less than age 18 in the front or back seat. Front seat passengers ages 18 and older are responsible for themselves and would get the ticket rather than the driver.
   Persons who drink and drive are subject to a $350 fine, 48 hours in jail and a one-year license revocation on first offense. Second offense is punishable by a $600 fine, 45 days in jail, and two-year license revocation. Third and subsequent offenses carry a $1,100 fine, 120 days in jail and three-year license revocation.
   Persons convicted as habitual motor offenders, who have three or more DUIs or serious driving offenses, can lose their license for three years and must petition the court to have the license reinstated. If the driver is convicted of a serious driving offense such as driving on revoked, or is involved in an accident with injuries during that three-year period, the judge has the right to deny the offender's petition for license reinstatement.