Holiday week lands many behind bars facing DUI charges

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Around 40 people are spending this holiday week behind bars, after police say they were driving under the influence.

Law enforcement considered this holiday week to begin on Wednesday, July 3 at 6 p.m., and it lasted until midnight on Sunday, July 7. Within that time, law enforcement agencies across the county participated in checkpoints to stop drunk drivers on the roads.

In addition to the dozens of DUI charges, over 100 people were fined or arrested for other alcohol-related charges. These include having an open container, minors in possession of alcohol and public intoxication.

"Alcohol activities start earlier in the day during the holiday," said Sgt. Jeff Benton with the CAST Coalition. "People are here on vacation, they're off, the weather has been beautiful so they're at the beach earlier." 

The CAST Coalition is made up of officers from almost every law enforcement agency in the county. They work year-round to educate and prevent drunk driving. During the Fourth of July, the Coalition wants to create a safe celebration for our visitors.

"And for our locals, they deserve to be safe," expressed Sgt. Benton. "They deserve to go out and enjoy the Fourth with their families and not worry about someone drinking and driving and hitting them." 

Sgt. Benton said it isn't just jail time and fines drunk drivers could face.

"When you decide to get behind the wheel intoxicated, you're putting the life of someone else at risk," said Sgt. Benton. He added, "can you bring back that life of that child, that grandfather, that mom or dad that you took? You can't bring it back. And you'll have to live with that for the rest of your life."

Deputies aren't using safety checkpoints just for DUI cases. Random checkpoint stops across the Grand Strand help to stop other illegal activity.

"We arrested a fugitive out of Florida with a nationwide extradition, we had three cases of crack cocaine," said Sgt. Benton. "So, we had some drug charges, a possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. This means someone had marijuana on them, wrapped and ready to sell." 

With the number of people on the road and the celebratory nature of the holiday, the Fourth of July is considered a dangerous time to drive.

However, the CAST Coalition isn't aware of any traffic fatalities that have happened in the Grand Strand this Holiday Week.

This is a trend the SCHP hopes will continue, as the number of traffic fatalities are down across the state this year compared to 2012.

Copyright 2013 WMBF News. All rights reserved.