Drive responsibly and avoid the fines

Keeping North Carolina’s roads safe is the goal of the Highway Patrol
By Carole Howell
Drive responsibly and avoid the fines

With more than 78,000 miles of North Carolina highways, you may think that the odds are pretty good that you will escape the attention of a highway patrol officer.

But now you're sitting by the side of the interstate, blue lights flashing behind you. Staring straight ahead, you feel the eyes of your fellow motorists, passing by with a mixture of sympathy and relief that this time they have passed under the radar.

Chances are good that you were speeding. In 2012, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol issued citations for nearly 350,000 speeding violations, followed in number by registration and seatbelt violations.

"Once you've been stopped for one offense, it's possible to receive a verbal or written warning, and even be fined for additional violations depending on the type and severity of the offense," says First Sgt. Jeff Gordon of the NC Department of Public Safety, State Highway Patrol.

First Sgt. Gordon recommends the following for your safety, avoiding penalties and court costs, keeping your record clean, and making sure your auto insurance premiums don't increase.

Watch that speed

Every 17 minutes, someone is killed or injured in a speed-related accident on a North Carolina highway. If you have a car with cruise control, use it. Don't think that by keeping up with the flow of traffic you will not stand out for speeding.

Travel at a speed that is appropriate for conditions such as rain, snow and ice, wind, curves, ramps, roadway composition and construction zones. Going too fast through a work zone can result in fines as high as $250 and several points against your license.

Snap yourself safe

Always wear your seat belt and insist that your passengers buckle up. If you are unbelted during an accident, your airbag could hit your chest with the force of a baseball bat.

Children under the age of 8 and weighing less than 80 pounds should be restrained in a properly used and installed child safety seat or booster. Explore www.BuckleUpNC.org for specific information and the location of car seat checking stations in your county.

Drive straight and sober

Remember that it doesn't take a lot of alcohol to reach the legal limit of .08. Many people who are arrested for DWI often don't feel impaired. When in doubt, simply don't drive.

Being charged with driving while impaired is expensive. For a first offender who hires a lawyer for a trial, the cost can be at a minimum of $2,500. The fines alone can add up to $4,000.

Is your registration up to date?

Each year you receive a reminder to renew your registration. If you've moved, make sure that the state Department of Motor Vehicles has your current address so that there are no delays in receiving this important notification. To renew your registration, you must have completed a North Carolina safety inspection. Your registration expires at midnight on the last day of the month on your license plate sticker. After the 15th of the next month, the fine is $25 plus court costs.

Check your ride before you hit the road

If you are stopped for an equipment violation, it's possible that the patrolman has noticed a burned-out light or turn signal, unsafe tires, improper exhaust, or a cracked windshield. All of these equate to the possibility of causing a collision due to faulty equipment.

"Through enforcement and education, the Highway Patrol serves to provide safe and efficient transportation for all motorists traveling on North Carolina roadways," says First Sgt. Gordon. "Our ultimate goal is to prevent injuries and deaths on North Carolina highways."

About the Author

Carole Howell is an independent writer and amateur muscadine grower in Lincoln County. You can read more about her at walkerbranchwrites.com

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