HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - It's a concerning crime that police say continues to be a problem in the Grand Strand- people who drink and then get behind the wheel. On Horry County roadways, it happens more often than you think. The number of people who drink and drive has gotten to the point where law enforcement has a strong focus to completely break down the crime.
"DUI arrests have gone up from last year," Said Sgt. Jim Allen with Myrtle Beach Police. "So there's a lot of impaired drivers driving through South Carolina. And law enforcement is doing its best to get them off the roadway."
It's a top priority because the South Carolina Highway Patrol says drunk driving is the leading cause of crashes in the state. Law enforcement has been pulling out the handcuffs to put meaning behind the words "Zero Tolerance". And they've been busy in the area. Across Horry County toward the end of 2012 there were more than 1,100 DUI related arrests. As 2013 comes to a close next week, that number has already been topped off.
Many of the arrests are happening at the beach. Myrtle Beach Police alone have handled more than 400 DUI arrests this year. Locals say they are not surprised about these numbers, especially a man who used to own a sports bar.
"It's because of the economy being bad," explained Joe Patonetz. "People are not working. I think they get depressed and they drink a little bit more."
The South Carolina Highway Patrol plans to have message boards on state highways Friday night, Saturday night and on New Year's Eve as a warning to those who are thinking about drinking and getting behind the wheel. There will also be increased patrols on roadways.