Sheriff credits task force in lowering DUI-related deaths in Ker - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Sheriff credits task force in lowering DUI-related deaths in Kershaw Co.

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KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

You can't accuse Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews of not making good on his campaign promises. He pledged to make the roads in the county safer through new initiatives.

"We were number one in state for DUI fatalities, and very high in the state for just basic fatalities per capita," said Matthews.

So shortly after being elected in 2011, Matthews asked Kershaw County Council for $360,000 to form a traffic force -- four trained deputies equipped with new patrol cars, radar, and the ability to arrest someone for drunk driving.

"In the past, the sheriff's office did no DUI enforcement, so there was not a whole lot of reason not to," said Matthews.

But that's not the case anymore. Sheriff Matthews says it took a lot of lobbying on his part to get county council to approve the funding and a story of personal heartbreak.

"There was a family in Kershaw County whose little boy who was killed, I believe, on his birthday -- I think he was five or six years old -- right in front of his father by a third time DUI member," said Matthews.

The numbers illustrate just how far the county has come. In 2011, they had 92 DUI-related accidents. This year, that number was down to 74.

"There was a big Christmas party recently in the area of the county that traditionally served all the alcohol people could drink, and I went out there with two of my traffic guys, and we got no drunks coming out of that party," said Matthews. "We got a lot of designated rivers, which is a good thing."

Sheriff Matthews isn't done. He plans to ask county council add four more deputies to his traffic force.

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