Families say enough highway deaths are enough

LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) -  "We were just trying to get to church on Sunday and we didn't make it,"  said David Longstreet, whose daughter was killed by a man suspected of driving drunk.

Lauren Way lost her brother to a drunk driver.

"I wake up every morning praying that it was some horrible nightmare but it wasn't," said Way.

One tragedy after another. Loved ones all killed by drunk drivers.

"We had more deaths in Lexington County last year by vehicle than we had by any other means," said Sheriff James Metts.  "We had far too many deaths."

Lexington County had 52 traffic deaths last year,  the second highest in the state. Sheriff Metts says alcohol and drugs were responsible for more than 60 percent of those deaths. Local law enforcement and families of victims say it has to stop.  They're asking state lawmakers for stiffer penalties for drunk drivers.

"We all understand accidents happen," said Way.  "But I do know when you get in the car after you've been drinking or on drugs, that's not an accident. It's a horrible decision and you can kill other people."

And local law enforcement officials say part of the problem is that there are too many hoops to jump through to ensure that a DUI charge ends with a conviction.

"We've had several situations where individuals have actually been out on bond for DUI and had another DUI accident," said Pelion Police Chief Chris Garnder.  "It's the senseless killing of human life - there is no excuse for it."

Police say Jon Humphrey's 17-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver. His death was the driver's fifth DUI.

"To me it's the same as holding a gun to his head and pulling the trigger," Said Humphrey.  "There's no difference."

They're calling for changes to the law and more money to put more troopers on the roads.  Troopers and local law enforcement officers made more than 900 DUI arrests in Lexington County.

Sheriff Metts says more deputies on the road will crack down on drunk driving.

"When times are tough you don't cut back the agencies that provide protection, " said Metts. "If we're not safe, all the other things don't matter."

Copyright 2012 WIS. All Rights Reserved.