LEXINGTON COUNTY (WACH) - In 2011, Lexington County experienced the largest increase in deadly DUI crashes in the state.
Law enforcement is trying to put the brakes on drunk drivers with awareness campaigns, increased patrols, and help from the courtroom.
Judges are seeing dockets decked with DUI's each and every week in Lexington County.
Between October 1 of last year and February 7 more than 200 DUI cases were heard in the county's courtrooms.
"The message we're trying to send in Lexington County is if you're driving impaired, whether it be alcohol, drugs, or a combination; that law enforcement is out there. They will catch you," said Lexington County Asst. Solicitor Todd Wagoner.
Wagoner is a grant funded special DUI prosecutor for the Highway Patrol. He hears cases in Lexington, Saluda, Edgefield and McCormick counties.
Lexington County courts are aggressively attacking drunk driving, however DUI cases are a challenge.
"The challenge that is faced everyday in the centralized DUI court is that you have to paint it to a jury how serious it is," said Wagoner.
Billboards like the one put up by LRADAC are one way Lexington is showing how serious the problem is. There were more than 1,200 DUI arrests last year in the county.
Wagoner says that and other awareness campaigns should be a wake up call for drivers before they end up behind the wheel.
"Anytime someone gets behind the wheel, when they are impaired through alcohol or other substances, the chance of a tragedy is just too strong to take the chance," said Wagoner.
Jail time, thousands of dollars in fines and fees, and losing your license might not be the biggest problems to face. A DUI conviction can impact a persons life for years to come.
Lexington attorney James Snell represents those accused of drinking and driving and has even fought for victims of a DUI crash.
"In South Carolina, a DUI conviction is one of the few offenses that you can't get off a criminal record. And I've talked to plenty of folks who lost a job," said Snell.
While he's represented 15-year-old kids to elderly individuals, Snell sees first hand the impact DUI can have on a number of lives.
"South Carolina is a state where more beer is consumed than milk," said Snell. "It's tough if you're going to have alcohol at every event and a culture that's going to drink. It's going to be a constant problem."
Wagoner says his job has taught him to be aware of things and plan ahead.
"Have taxi cab numbers on your cell phone if you need them...use your friends to get a safe ride home," adds Wagoner.
South Carolina Highway Patrol has added three new troopers in Lexington County, hoping to keep the roadways safer and lower the number of deadly DUI crashes.
What do you think should be done to decrease DUI related incidents in South Carolina? Leave us a comment below.