Highway patrol: Drunken driving spikes in Beaufort County

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BEAUFORT COUNTY

Highway patrol: Drunken driving spikes in Beaufort County

By ALLISON STICE
astice@islandpacket.com
Published Friday, December 28, 2012   |  545 Words  |  

S.C. Highway Patrol troopers arrested as many drunken drivers in Beaufort County over the Christmas holiday as in Charleston, Dorchester, Berkeley and Colleton counties combined.

From Dec. 21 through midnight Dec. 25, troopers arrested 10 people in Beaufort County for driving with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit of 0.08, according to Highway Patrol statistics.

That's the same number of people troopers charged with drunken driving in the four other counties in the patrol's Troop Six region.

Over the same period, local authorities arrested an additional six people for DUI, according to the Beaufort County Detention Center, bringing the total number of local drunk-driving arrests to 16.

Only three people were arrested for driving under the influence in Beaufort County during the Christmas holiday travel period last year.

The increase in drunken driving arrests indicates extra patrols are worth it, and officers plan to keep up the pressure through next week, according to Highway Patrol Sgt. Bob Beres.

The crackdown continues through Wednesday, with local law enforcement agencies participating in the blitz.

The New Year's holiday will have "the biggest law enforcement presence of the year," Beres said.

"People probably already know where they're going to hang out and what they're going to wear on New Year's Eve," he added. "Now is also the time to get a plan in place for how to get home."

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office will also be "saturating" local roads, said Sgt. Robin McIntosh.

The crackdown is part of the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign coordinated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration throughout the country.

In South Carolina, nearly half of all traffic fatalities involve at least one driver with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety.

Of the drunken-driving fatalities in the state, about 70 percent involve at least one driver with blood alcohol levels at almost twice the legal limit -- 0.15 or higher.

A first-time conviction for driving under the influence in the Palmetto State can bring a fine of up to $400, imprisonment from 48 hours to 30 days and suspension of a driver's license for six months. It also results in other costs, including higher insurance premiums, attorney's fees and payments for required alcohol and drug programs, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The penalties are stiffer for each subsequent offense.

Felony driving under the influence that causing severe injuries can lead to fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 15 years.

A drunken-driving crash that causes death carries a fine of up to $25,000 and 25 years in prison.

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