Forty-seven Ocean County highway deaths in 2013 did not represent an all-time high, nor did the 542 across New Jersey. But even one is one too many, say county health and safety officials as they drive home the message of sobriety and care behind the wheel.

3-D Drinking, Drugging and Driving Event 2013 (Ocean County Health Department)

Friday, February 21, is the only day of the year you're likely to undergo a DUI road stop at center court in the Ocean County Mall in Toms River. It's the site of the county's annual "3-D" (drinking, drugging, driving) event.

From 10 AM until 5 PM, the county Health Department's Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) engages visitors in simulated impaired-driving situations, DUI stops, and information aimed at discouraging reckless behavior that can lead to deaths.

Members of the Ocean County Health Department, County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, and  Collier of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs are taking part along with students from several schools in the county, the DART Coalition and many others.

One of the centerpiece components will be "fatal vision goggles," which simulate the brain-bending effects of intoxication for sober wearers.

"The theme is 'There's Always A Choice - Never An Accident'," said OCHD spokesperson Leslie Terjesen."People need to understand that they're responsible, and they're accountable, when they get behind the wheel. So not only do people learn about the consequences [at the event], they learn how to prevent it."

The event also features educators, drug rehabilitation coordinators and substance-abuse prevention experts.

"People can learn how to recognize drug and alcohol problems," Terjesen said. "They can learn about prevention and education."

Beyond the admonitions against impaired driving are the collateral-damage victims, she continued. "We hear all the time about people being killed by drunk drivers. We're seeing many more stops of people driving under the influence of drugs."

Terjsen adds that there are long-term financial impacts that linger well beyond a crash, if one is lucky enough to survive and not kill anyone else.

"Even just getting stopped," Terjesen observed, invariably involves multiple costly citations, to say nothing of insurance fallout. A crash that leaves injuries or deaths ties in medical bills and impacts health insurance. "You can lose your license. You can lose your job. You can lose your home. People need to think it through."

And anyone who's ever been in a car crash can tell you that the experience is nothing that can be simply shrugged off. Some psychological impacts can last a lifetime.

You can find mmore information about this and many other events at the Ocean County Health Department web page.