COLUMBIA (WACH) The South Carolina Department of Public Safety partnered with local hospitals, first responders, and law enforcement agencies across the state to launch the annual Sober or Slammer initiative.
Beginning August 15 through the end of Labor Day, increased DUI enforecment will be combined with SCDOT's message boards that will display "Statewide DUI Crackdown in Progress" bulletins.
Since Memorial Day, 141 people have died on South Carolina roadways in traffic crashes, which is down from last summer when there were 168 people killed during the same time frame.
??Even though we are seeing a decline in overall fatalities in our state, in 40 percent of those deaths, alcohol continued to be a factor,?? said SCDPS Director Leroy Smith.
Overall traffic deaths on the roadways are down by 17 compared to last year. As of August 13, 437 people have died on South Carolina highways, compared to 454 highway deaths during the same period in 2013. Of the 311 motor vehicle occupants who have died in 2014, 154 were not wearing seat belts. The latest DUI statistics show that 348 people died in 2012 as a result of an alcohol-involved crash.
Doctors and family members say DUI is preventable.
Carol Kiparisus' son Johnny died back in 2001, he was driving under the influence.
"You know all of these kids, they know right from wrong," says Kiparisus "and I know that they are going to make mistakes, that's normal but that one mistake can take your life or someone else's"
The mistake she describes is one that doctors in the Midlands see far too often.
"Over half of the fatal crashes in the state involve at least one intoxicated driver," says Trauma/ER Dr. Troy Privette.
Privette says these crashes are preventable and it doesn't take much for a night out on the town to turn tragic.
"You know as you've heard, buzzed driving is drunk driving, and often times we see that; where people's skills and reaction times are impaired," says Privette, "and when they've been drinking or other things they think they're invinsible and nothing bad's gonna happen and that's the real problem."
Law enforcement across the state hopes a new "Target Zero" campaign can put an end to the problem that takes the life of thousands each year.
Those left behind like Kiparisus are now speaking out to help prevent it from happening again.
"The message I want to send is for parents to talk to their teenagers, let them know that when you get behind the wheel, you have many lives in your hands." Kiparisus adds, "stay focused on what you're doing, don't drink and drive, don't get in the car with someone that's been drinking."
To report drunk drivers call *HP or *47 from your mobile device.