North Carolina is partnering with five other nearby states for the annual “Hands Across the Border” campaign. Along with Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee, North Carolina will be setting up DUI checkpoints near the state border to catch intoxicated drivers.
This year marks the 24th year the campaign has run in the Southeastern states. The six-day campaign started on the 1st of September, and will run through Labor Day.
In addition to DUIs, other traffic offenses are also being targeted by the campaign. Police will be keeping an eye out for distracted drivers and motorists without seatbelts. In the past, the crackdown has helped the police catch drivers without insurance, those with suspended licenses, fugitives, and individuals with outstanding warrants.
The End of the Summer Sees Increase in Drunk Drivers
Activity near the borders is high this time of year. Many vacationers will be crossing the state’s borders to reach their destinations, and many vacation spots are located near state borders.
During the summer months—especially around holidays—the number of drunk drivers tends to increase. Many factors could be responsible for this upswing. As the hot months begin to wind down, vacationers are celebrating, students are trying to squeeze their last bits of revelry in before summer ends, and locals are driving home from an end-of-summer parties and barbecues. Unfortunately, the increase in celebrations correlates with the number of car accidents caused by intoxicated drivers.
Zero Tolerance for Intoxicated Drivers
A statement posted on the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s website underlines the reasoning behind the campaign. “So many people see Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer and want to hit the road before fall rolls around,” said Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “Because so many people are going to be traveling leading up to Labor Day weekend, we want to make sure that drunk drivers don’t turn someone’s summer of fun into a summer of tragedy.”
“There are a lot of summer destinations between here and our neighboring states,” GOHS Director Harris Blackwood said in the release. “From coastal beaches and lakeside destinations to mountain retreats and even amusement parks, we’ve got a lot to offer.
“But one thing we don’t offer is leniency when it comes to impaired drivers. Whether it’s drugs or alcohol, law enforcement on both sides of the state lines will find you and you will be arrested.”
The campaign intends to send a message of zero tolerance from the six participating states and beyond. As the legal limit is .08% BAC in all 50 states, Director Blackwell believes there is no excuse for driving above the legal limit. “It is far too easy to arrange for a sober driver and far too irresponsible not to,” said Director Blackwood. “This increased police presence for the holiday will remind everyone that Georgia has a zero tolerance policy for drunk driving. You won’t get a warning. You will be arrested and you will go to jail.” It’s a message North Carolina wants to send as well.
In an interview reported by Georgia local news outfit WDEF, Blackwell also noted that his home state had already passed records from previous years for intoxicated driving-related fatalities—82 individuals died this year in Georgia in drunk driving accidents. “Those are 82 families whose lives have been changed forever,” said Blackwood, “And most often, most often it’s avoidable.”
Hands Across the Border is also holds a symbolic significance for police departments across the six states. Various departments rendezvous near state borders to share information and plan their campaigns. They will also gather with highway safety officials at state welcome centers for media interviews and the traditional handshakes, which signify partnership between police departments.
Hands Across the Border Remembers Drunk Driving Victim
This year, the campaign is held in honor of Florida victim Brandon Faust, who was killed in a drunk driving accident in 2009. Five days before his 23rd birthday, Brandon was driving in Panama City Beach when he was killed in a head-on collision with an intoxicated female driver.
His mother DiAnn related the details of the tragedy to Florida’s WTVY. “She was .30 which is almost 3 times the legal limit and she forgot to turn on her headlights and she was going the wrong way,” said DiAnn. “She hit him head on. It killed him and her instantly.”
Brandon’s mother said it brought her comfort to learn that the campaign would honor her son this year. She urged other drivers to think before they drink and drive. “If you’re gonna drink, don’t drive. Do what you have to do at home, you know, or have a designated driver. The driving part is what killed my child.”
Hands Across the Border runs concurrently with the nationwide campaign “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” The two are not related, though both seek to address the increase in intoxicated drivers around Labor Day.
With so much police attention being paid to the roadways over the holiday, there’s a good chance at least a few overzealous officers may end up cutting corners or otherwise acting overzealously in their pursuit of genuine dangers out there. If you find yourself caught up in the sweep in North Carolina, remember that a charge is not a conviction, and that you have the right to an aggressive legal defense.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.