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Fewer NC drivers got arrested for DWI during the holidays

The number of arrests for impaired driving declined over the holidays this year, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. One man was killed in this six-car crash in Garner on Sept. 1, 2016, and police charged the driver that set off the crash with DWI and running a red light.
The number of arrests for impaired driving declined over the holidays this year, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. One man was killed in this six-car crash in Garner on Sept. 1, 2016, and police charged the driver that set off the crash with DWI and running a red light. jalexander@newsobserver.com

Fewer people were charged with impaired driving in North Carolina during this year’s annual three-week crackdown during the holidays, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program announced Thursday.

Statewide, 2,029 people were arrested and charged with DWI during the “Booze It and Lose It” campaign between Dec. 14 and Jan. 2. That compares to 2,528 during last year’s campaign, a drop of nearly 20 percent.

“These numbers mean that a combination of education and enforcement is improving safety across North Carolina roadways,” Mark Ezzell, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, said in a statement.

The precise reasons for the decline aren’t clear, but it’s thought that rideshare companies such as Lyft and Uber are making it easier for people to avoid driving while impaired, said Miracle King, spokeswoman for the highway safety program. The decline in DWI arrests continues a broader trend in recent years that reflects a cultural change that probably results from several factors, King said.

“We believe that rideshare is one of them,” she said. “We know that something is changing.”

The number of arrests also reflects the efforts of law enforcement agencies. The largest number of arrests (163) came in Wake County, which has more residents than any other county (about 1 million) but also had more checkpoints and special DWI patrols during the campaign than most (269). Last year, Wake had 247 DWI arrests during the holidays. Mecklenburg County, which has a similar population, had about a third as many checkpoints and patrols and saw only 93 DWI arrests.

The only other county with more than 100 DWI arrests during the campaign was Guilford, with 143. In the Triangle, Orange reported 52 DWI arrests, Johnston 33 and Durham 11.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 19 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.

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