Victims of impaired drivers honored in lights
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The holiday season usually means one thing, family. But some families around the state are mourning the loss of loved ones who died in car accidents due to impaired drivers in 2010.

“There are so many DWI crashes that result in death and the law enforcement officers have to be recognized for what they do on a daily basis,” said Justice in Motion Director Barb Lynch.

The Tree of Life was bright this year with about 2,000 Christmas lights strung on it’s branches. Each light represents someone who has died because of a traffic accident in North Carolina in 2010. The white lights are strung for the 1,327 people who died in accidents and the 437 red lights represent the lives lost to impaired drivers.

Law enforcement officers from across the state say it is essential to remember those who have died because of other’s recklessness.

“It reminds us of all the impaired drivers out there and the families that have lost members due to drunk driving or impaired driving,” said Sgt. Michael Fike of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. “It just reminds us to be vigilant and to be out there on the street doing what we can to take these impaired drivers off the street."

Kim Heath’s daughter Stephanie’s life is represented by one of those red lights. An impaired driver killed Stephanie in May 2010. Friday night, Heath thanked the officers for their strength and perseverance in getting impaired and drunk drivers off the road.

Officers say this holiday season, it’s important to remember that if you get behind the wheel impaired you’re risking more than just a ticket.

“Even if you have one drink, it would be best that you get a designated driver or find a taxi cab or get a ride home,” said Fike.

Heath says she hopes officers continue the hard work so that the tree isn’t so bright next year.

Officers at the event were honored for making over 9,000 DWI arrests in 2010. The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office says they have teamed up with the Wilmington Police Department and surrounding counties to increase law enforcement on the streets this holiday season.

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Obviously, the consequences of impaired driving are not harsh enough to deter so many. Just think of the ones that don't get caught. It is all about the court costs, attorney fees, driving school, evaluations, all about the money. If a drunk is in jail, he won't be caught and generate revenues. I have a friend who has been caught numerous times for DUI. She is always able to "Pay" her way out and continue to drive. First offense.....30 days in jail, $10,000 fine and loss of vehicle. Second offense........12 months in jail, $25,000 fine, loss of vehicle and permanent licnese revocation.

This is so sad that so many people have lost their lives due to drunk drivers. But if you live in Brunswick County you can still get out of a DWI. They hire lawyers who postpone trial dates until they get them off. The Judges and Prosecuators should be held liable and accountable. If this was there loved ones they would'nt let them get off. SO LETS HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.....

Sounds good to me. This crime like so many others is so easily preventable with a little judgement and planning. Leave your car, designated driver, call a tow truck to take you and your car home, stay there, do anything but drive.

Obviously some people may get off too easy, but certainly not me. I was pulled over at Wrightsville Beach one night after visiting some family members. The cause for my traffic stop was a burned out break light that I was not aware of. I was interrogated, and administered sobriety tests, which I passed. After passing the sobriety test I was arrested on suspicion of DWI because I admitted to the officer that I had three beers and a glass of wine over the course of the evening. When I got the the station I blew a .09 and a .08. At the time of my traffic stop I felt no effects of alcohol and passed the field tests with flying colors. I spent $2500 on an attorney and was convicted in New Hanover County district court. I lost my job, my insurance skyrocketed, and it has ruined my life. I am now unemployed, broke, depressed, and would do anything to undo what has been done. The point of my story is some people really get screwed. I was one of them. Don't drink and drive because you may kill someone. Or you may be perfectly capable of making it home safely but get caught in a trap that ruins you own life.

This is the way it is supposed to work.