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S.C. Department of Public Safety officials, medical personnel, first responders and local law enforcement united Thursday, Aug. 14 at Springs Memorial Hospital to kick off the 2014 Sober or Slammer! DUI campaign to reduce alcohol-related fatalities during the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend.
S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Gary Miller said state law enforcement officers are combining resources with sheriffs, local police, fire and EMS officials to remind the public to stay safe.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to reduce fatalities on our highways,” Miller said. “Last year during the Labor Day weekend, 13 people died on our highways but our ultimate goal is our zero policy – we want no one dying on our highways.”
S.C. Highway Patrol Capt. Bobby Albert, Troop 4 commander (Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Lancaster, Union and York counties) said 141 people have died in traffic collisions on state highways from the 2013 Memorial Day weekend to Thursday.
“There were 168 deaths on our highways for the same time period last year,” he said. “Of that number, 13 people died during the 78-hour period of the Labor Day weekend.”
Albert said in giving the keys to a sober person, an impaired individual can ride free but the arrests of those involved in alcohol-related incidents led to an average of $10,000 in state fines in 2013.
“Every two hours a person is injured on our highways, on average, one person dies from a DUI,” he said. “Our troopers will focus on drunk driving in the coming weeks, there were nearly 27,000 DUI arrests in South Carolina last year.
“We must change the culture that says it’s an acceptable crime.”
Albert shared the “Target Zero” campaign where the public is asked, “How many traffic deaths are acceptable in your family?”
Beginning today, state residents can get involved and report concerns about drunk driving on social media outlets. Go to the highway patrol's website at www.schponline.com and post messages to Facebook or Twitter using #TargetZeroSC.
“Target Zero starts with you,” Albert told the community. “One life lost to DUI is too many.”
Lancaster County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jeff Hilton said his department is committed to reducing alcohol-related deaths. He said there were 116 DUI arrests in 2013 in Lancaster County compared to 22 (arrests) in 2012.
Lancaster Fire Department Chief Chuck Small said the department’s first responders see the effects of drunk driving firsthand when they are called to an accident scene.
“We want to let our brothers in blue know we support them 100 percent,” he said.
Springs Memorial Hospital CEO Janice Dabney shared staggering statistics to close the Sober or Slammer! DUI kick-off campaign.
“Almost 50 percent of accidents involve impaired drivers and we see them as a result in our ER,” she said. “Your involvement in this campaign can save a life.”
Contact reporter Denyse Clark at (803) 283-1152