Sumter city, county law enforcement will be watching for drunk drivers New Year's Eve

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Traveling on New Year's Eve, one of the deadliest holidays involving drunken driving, can dramatically change the start of 2018 if the proper precautions are not taken. At a time when a safe ride home is just a few taps away by cellphone, many party-goers should find it easy to make it to and from their destinations without incident.

Plan transportation

Motorists are advised to keep an eye out for intoxicated pedestrians who may jaywalk and not obey traffic signals, states a release from American Automobile Association.

Walking while intoxicated can also be deadly, as coordination and lack of attention puts drunken pedestrians at risk of getting hit by vehicles.

AAA suggests the following:

- Decide ahead of time if you will be drinking or driving - you cannot do both;

- Plan the ride home before the night begins whether that be designating a sober driver or planning to use a taxi or ride-sharing service;

- Download a ride-sharing app for convenience in case plans change;

- If you see someone getting behind the wheel intoxicated, take his or her keys and assist the person in finding a safe ride home;

- If you are hosting a party with alcohol, help find guests a safe ride home or allow guests to stay the night if need be;

- Stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the party ends; and

- If you see a driver on the road who you suspect is impaired, pull over to a safe location and call 911. Provide a description of the vehicle.

Local law enforcement efforts

Sumter County Sheriff's Office and Sumter Police Department will have multiple checkpoints set up throughout Sumter on New Year's Eve, and officers will be watching for drivers who are violating traffic and safety laws.

In the county, deputies will move check points throughout the night to stop as many impaired and distracted drivers as possible.

S.C. DUI laws

An officer can infer that a person is driving under the influence if the driver has a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 percent or higher. A BAC of at least .05 percent can also infer that a person is driving under the influence, along with other evidence.

If convicted of DUI, a person could face:

- A fine of up to $400 and/or imprisonment between 48 hours to 30 days and a driver's license suspension for six months for a first offense;

- Possible punishments for second and third DUI convictions include fines that range from $2,100 to $6,300 and imprisonment between five days to three years; and

- A fourth or subsequent conviction could result in one to five years in prison and a permanent revocation of the driver's license.

Possible signs of an impaired driver

- Making unusually wide turns, weaving or swerving;

- Staying close to, driving on or crossing the centerline;

- Almost hitting other vehicles, objects, or people;

- Driving at excessive speeds or very slowly, and changing speeds erratically; and

- Following too closely.

How to avoid impaired drivers

- Maintain a greater following distance if the driver ahead may be intoxicated. Do not try to pass that vehicle because the driver may try to swerve into your vehicle;

- Turn right at the closest possible place and let supposedly impaired drivers pass;

- If another vehicle is coming straight toward your vehicle, slow down quickly, and steer as far to the right as possible. Do whatever you have to do to avoid a head-on collision; and

- Report impaired drivers to law enforcement once you safely come to a stop. Contact highway patrol by dialing *HP.

Traffic fatality numbers

According to the S.C. Highway Patrol website:

- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 331 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in South Carolina during 2016; and

- From 2011-15, preliminary data shows approximately 29,300 people were involved in DUI-related collisions in the state.