Officers on look out for drunk drivers

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By Jenny Hartley

Local law enforcement agencies will be on the hunt for drunk drivers through the New Year's holiday.

The S.C. Highway Patrol kicked off its Sober or Slammer campaign last weekend, said Lance Cpl. Ron Johnson. The goal of the campaign is to get drunk drivers off the roads.

Johnson said more than 50 percent of traffic deaths on South Carolina highways are alcohol-related. The state has one of the top rates for alcohol-related traffic deaths in the nation.

State troopers will be working with city police and sheriff's deputies to hold traffic safety checkpoints around Lancaster County. The sheriff's office will also be conducting checkpoints through the holiday period.

"It's the holiday season – have a plan," Johnson said.

That means having a designated driver, planning to take a taxi home after a party or to stay overnight at the place you've been drinking instead of driving home.

In 2004 – during Sober or Slammer, Johnson said. There were no traffic deaths during the enforcement period last year.

The Highway Patrol wants people to think about the consequences of drinking and driving.

"Don't drink and drive," Johnson said. "You'll either end up in jail or killing yourself or someone else."

Lancaster Police Department Capt. Scott Grant said his department has several nights of increased enforcement planned through the holiday period. This will include public safety checkpoints and saturation patrols, when extra officers concentrate on traffic violations, Grant said.

The city department will also work with the Highway Patrol during Sober or Slammer.

"Celebrate safely because we will be out there," Grant said.

Lancaster Police Department officers worked special patrols and a checkpoint Tuesday night, resulting in 30 cases that included traffic tickets and arrests for driving under suspension, expired licenses and a pistol charge. No drivers were charged with DUI, however.

"It looked like all the Christmas lights had turned blue," Grant said.

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