Upstate family and SC Highway Patrol sending important message ahead of New Year’s Eve

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SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA)–South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP), said the number of people dying on state roads, is up since last year. Now they are on a mission to change that with a campaign called, “Sober or Slammer”.

“Unfortunately, we are up in fatalities for the year, not just the last month. We’re at a 1,069 possibly 70 at this point. It was a 1,069 yesterday and that’s about a two percent increase from last year,” said Master Trooper Mitchell Ridgeway, SCHP. “With the Sober or Slammer Campaign, what we’re really trying to curve is the fatalities. We really want to get that number down through enforcement efforts, through going out and aggressively looking for impaired drivers, distracted drivers, reckless drivers, and of course speeders and folks that aren’t wearing their seatbelts,” Ridgeway said. “And if we can get those people, especially our impaired drivers before they cause an accident, hurt themselves or someone else, I think we’d definitely accomplish the mission, if we’re able to do that.”

Denise Johnson Wheeler’s home is filled with memories of her dad, Wayne Johnson, after he passed away after an impaired driver took his life.

“October 11, 2018 he was actually on his way here to deliver a gift to me and he was hit by someone that was under the influence of drugs,” Wheeler said. “My father pulled on the side of the road to secure a package that he had on the back of a truck and never seen it coming. She hit him, and he was ejected from the back of the vehicle and was killed instantly,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the 62-year-old, was only 15 minutes away from her home.

“None of this was his fault. He was doing a great thing, bringing a hot tub to me that we had asked for and was coming to help my husband secure it, and lost his life,” Wheeler said.

It’s losing lives like this, SCHP is trying stop through its campaign.

“So on December 17th, we did for the month of December, kicked off the Sober or Slammer campaign, which runs through January 1st, 2022,” Ridgeway said. “And of course, what you’ll see with a lot of these fatalities is 50% of these fatalities that occur on our roadways, are alcohol or drug related, or the combination of both,” Ridgeway said. “So along with other bad driving behaviors, such as distracted driving or individuals on their cell phone, texting, on social media, reckless driving, you know…exceeding the posted speed limit, and another big factor is people not wearing their seatbelt,” Ridgeway said. “Because 50% of the traffic deaths that do occur in our state, 50% of those people were not wearing their seatbelts. So, if we can get out and enforce our impaired driving law and get those individuals off the roadway and get people to buckle up more, we will definitely curve that we’ve gotten to in the year 2021,” he said.

As people gear up for the New Year, Wheeler is sending an important message.

“People need to definitely take a moment and realize that one mistake, I don’t even know if I’d call it a mistake. One decision it effects more than just your life. You’re ruining tons of people’s lives. I mean, when you make a decision to drink and drive or do drugs and drive, the person that you kill, they have family. They have grandchildren, they have children. They have lives, and your decision affects everyone around you,” Wheeler said. “So I would just urge you to think about what you’re doing. Have a designated driver if you decide to drink. Stay at home. Stay at home. Drink at home,” Wheeler said. “I don’t want to see anyone else go through what me and my family are having to go through,” she added.

“Hopefully, we’ll get enough troopers out there and other law enforcement personnel to intervene with those individuals that have made that poor choice,” Ridgeway said. “That way we can stop them, apprehend them, place them in custody, put them in the detention center for the night, and at least save their life and possibly somebody else’s that could been affected by that poor choice that night.”

Click here to read more tips from SCHP, on how to stay safe during the holiday season and everyday.

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