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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.