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South Carolina groups team up to reduce drunk driving accidents

Law enforcement and community agencies have joined forced in Horry County, South Carolina, in an effort to curb drunk driving and keep impaired drivers off the road. So far, it seems to have an effect.

The Horry County Community Action for a Safer Tomorrow Coalition, called CAST, announced that in the first five months of it partnership, it had written 323 violations that led to charges, including 50 for DUI. It accomplished that through 46 checkpoints and 18 beefed-up patrols.

The chairman of the group said that it is striving to use community involvement, prevention and education to put an end to DUI. One sergeant with the South Carolina Highway Patrol said that members of each agency that have come together for the task force recognize that drinking and driving can have tragic consequences and that it must end.

Horry County received a five-year federal grant totaling $165,000 to pay for the group's work. The money pays for overtime for officers who work the traffic-safety checkpoints or take part in what are known as "saturation patrols" to help prevent both drunken driving and underage drinking. There is no cost to the taxpayers, according to police.

The coalition to deal with drunk driving is modeled after drug task forces and units that work to stop organized crime. Those groups exist because those crimes cross jurisdictional boundaries, as does drunk driving, authorities said, realizing they can be more effective if they work together. Therefore, members of one agency will go into another area to assist with things such as traffic checkpoints.

Members of the coalition include police departments from Coastal Carolina University, Aynor, Loris, Horry County, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach, along with the state Highway Patrol. Additional members include the county school district and the Solicitor's Office.

While the group's efforts to address drinking and driving are commendable, DUI cases always will exist. At some point, if funding is available, a component to address counseling for offenders would be a worthy addition.

Source: The Sun News, "Area police focus efforts on DUIs, underage drinking with coalition," Tonya Root, Aug. 1, 2012

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