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Holiday driving crackdown starts Monday: What are fines and penalties for breaking the rules of the road?

North Carolina News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — Police officers, deputies and state troopers are ramping up their efforts to curb speeding, driving while intoxicated and driving without a seatbelt. If you don’t want a ticket, you will want to listen up.

On Wednesday, members of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program announced the statewide Click-It-or-Ticket campaign for the holidays.

Starting Monday, you can expect law enforcement to be paying even closer attention to vehicles on the road. They hope to see drivers driving the speed limit, sober and with a seatbelt. The initiative runs until Nov. 28.

More than 500 people die on roads every day during the Thanksgiving holiday, Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers said.

“Unfortunately, over … the past year or so, we have lost several people due to lack of wearing their seatbelt,” Rogers said Wednesday. “Within 2020, we lost close to 25 people (in Guilford County). 25 fatalities, failed to wear their seatbelt. Here we are in November of 2021, and we have lost 24 up until this date.”

In 2021 in North Carolina, 450 people have died and 926 have been seriously injured in unbuckled crashes.

So what are the laws?

The information below is pulled from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Seatbelts

Drivers, front-seat passengers and back-seat passengers must wear a seatbelt. Passengers ages 16 and older are responsible for themselves — but the driver is responsible for any passengers under the age of 16.

Drivers and front-seat passengers caught without seat belts may face a penalty of $25.50 with court costs of $153.50. Backseat passengers may face a penalty of $10.

Child restraints

Any children under the age of 8 and weighing less than 80 pounds must be properly secured in a weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system.

Children under the age of 5 and weighing less than 40 pounds cannot sit in the front passenger seat if there is an active passenger-side front airbag. Instead, they must be in the back seat. The only exception will be for child restraint systems designed for use with airbags.

A child under the age of 8 and between 40 and 80 pounds must be secured with a lap and shoulder belt to secure the weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system. If no seat has a lap and shoulder belt, the restraint system may be restrained by just a properly fitted lap belt. Children weighing 80 pounds or more may be restrained by a properly-fitted seatbelt and shoulder harness.

Anyone caught violating these child restraint laws could face a penalty up to $25 with $188 in court costs. They will also receive two driver license points.

Children in rear-facing child safety seats should not be placed in the front passenger seat if there are passenger-side airbags.

Children under age the age of 13 should ride in the back seat for maximum safety.

Driving while impaired

Misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated

There are five levels to North Carolina’s driving while intoxicated law.

Level V is punishable by a fine up to $200 and a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and a maximum of 60 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 24 hours in jail, perform 24 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 30 days.

Level IV is punishable by a fine up to $500 and a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours and a maximum of 120 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 48 hours in jail, perform 48 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 60 days.

Level III is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and a maximum of six months. A judge can suspend the sentence only upon completion that the driver spend at least 72 hours in jail, perform 72 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 90 days.

Level II is punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a maximum of one year. A judge cannot suspend the minimum sentence.

Level I is punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a maximum of two years. A judge cannot suspend the minimum sentence.

Level I and II drivers are repeat offenders, people whose license are revoked, impaired drivers, impaired drivers who are transporting young children and impaired drivers who hurt someone in a crash. Impaired drivers must complete a substance abuse assessment and comply with any recommended treatment as a condition for having their drivers license restored at the end of the revocation period.

Felony Driving While Intoxicated

For Habitual DWI offenders, drivers who have had three prior DWI convictions within the past seven years, DWI becomes a more severe felony. But more importantly, the Habitual DWI statute now mandates a minimum active jail term of one year — a sentence that cannot be suspended. Offenders must also go through a substance abuse program while in jail or as a condition of parole.

Seizure and Forfeiture of Vehicles

Under the governor’s new DWI initiative, a law enforcement officer can seize a driver’s car if the officer charges that person with DWI and that person was driving while his or her license was revoked due to a previous impaired driving offense.

If a court convicts the driver of DWI and of committing the offense while driving with a revoked license due to a previous impaired driving offense, the judge will order the vehicle forfeited. The school board can then sell the vehicle and keep the proceeds, sharing the money with any other school systems in the county, or keep the car for its own use. The law does allow vehicle owners to get their cars back if they were not the driver convicted of DWI but only if they satisfy the court that they are an innocent party.

Zero Tolerance for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

It’s unlawful for the operator of a commercial motor vehicle to drink and drive. The first offense results in a 10 day disqualification to operate a commercial motor vehicle. The second or subsequent offense revokes the drivers license to operate any vehicle.

Zero tolerance for school bus and school activity bus drivers and child care vehicle drivers drivers.

It is unlawful for school bus and school activity bus drivers and child care vehicle operators (day care van etc.) to drink and drive.

Offenders Under Age 21

Prior to the enactment of the new statutes, North Carolina had already taken a zero-tolerance stance against drivers who were under the legal drinking age who nevertheless drank or used drugs illegally and then got behind the wheel. People under age 21 simply cannot drive with any alcohol or illegally-used drugs in their systems — period. Any amount of alcohol will result in an immediate 30 day pretrial revocation. If an underage drinking driver refuses to take such a test, he or she now need only have the smell of alcohol on the breath to be convicted of driving after drinking. Offenders will have their licenses revoked for one year but can get limited driving privileges instated by a judge if the driver was at least 18 years old at the time of the offense and did not have a prior conviction.

Drug Testing

The Initiative also recognized North Carolina’s inability to prosecute and convict someone for driving while impaired by something other than alcohol. Under the new provision, law officers can now order chemical tests for drugs. It also amends the old law to allow for the revocation of a driver’s license if he or she refuses to take such a test.

Drivers License Revocation

All persons charged with DWI who refuse to take an Intoxilyzer test or has results of 0.08 or more, 0.04 if commercial motor vehicle, or under age 21 and the results are above 0.04, will have their license revoked immediately for 30 days. There is a limited driving privilege available after 10 days. Upon conviction of DWI for first offense, the license is revoked for one year. A limited driving privilege may be granted by the judge, but only if the driver did not hurt anyone, did not have a child under sixteen years of age in the car at the time of the drunk driving, and the driver obtains a substance abuse assessment. In order to have a license restored at the end of one year, the driver must go to treatment or school as recommended by the assessment. Upon conviction of a second offense within three years, the revocation is four years.

Refusing a Test

A driver who is stopped by a Trooper or other officer for certain alcohol-related offenses will be requested to submit to a breath test or blood test or both to determine alcohol concentration or the presence of drugs in the blood. The results of the test will be used in court.

If the driver refuses the test, an immediate 30-day revocation is imposed and an additional one-year revocation is imposed after an opportunity for a hearing.

Even if the driver is found not guilty of DWI in court, the one-year revocation is imposed for refusing the test.

A limited driving privilege may be granted but only after a six-month revocation period.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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