The sheriff of Lexington County recently asked bar owners to help deter drunken driving by not serving intoxicated customers. “I’m letting them know they have a part to play in this,” Sheriff James Metts was quoted in The State as saying. Metts said officers will increase patrols in areas around nearly a dozen bars.
According to The State and S.C. crash statistics, Lexington County is one of the most at-risk places in the state when it comes to drunk drivers. The idea to stop intoxicated drivers before they get behind the wheel came from a citizens group formed through the Lexington-Richland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council. According to the group, drivers in the area may think there is little risk in getting behind the wheel while under the influence. The group also called for stronger efforts to prevent people from drinking too much and to stop people from driving after they have been drinking.
Not all bar owners are thrilled by the initiative. The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council says that it can be a struggle to get some bar owners to cooperate with the group’s efforts to schedule training for bar employees so they can identify and handle intoxicated customers.
At least 40 people have died on Lexington County roads this year, more than at the same time in 2011 or 2010.
Lexington County’s efforts come on the heels of a new study finding that more than half of all drivers in fatal crashes had alcohol or drugs in their systems. Researchers looked at crash data for 14 states between 2005 and 2009. According to the MedlinePlus coverage of the study, about 57 percent of more than 20,000 drivers killed in accidents over the five-year study period tested positive for at least one substance.
The study’s authors point out that there are no consistent, nationwide standards for testing drivers for drugs and alcohol at the time of a crash, which may mean that important evidence of drunken or drugged driving may be slipping through the cracks. According to MedlinePlus, federal regulators estimate that drunken drivers account for about one-third of all fatal accidents in the United States each year, or about 10,000 deaths in 2010.