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Charleston police revamps DUI enforcement after deadliest year on city roadways

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 4:09 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 11, 2022 at 7:10 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Police Department says they’re revamping their DUI enforcement after an especially deadly 2021.

In 2021, Charleston had 24 traffic fatalities, a record for City of Charleston roadways. Roughly 60 percent of those collisions involved impaired drivers, according to Lt. Paul Krasowski with the Charleston Police Department. Krasowski says the deadly year prompted them to make some adjustments.

This year, the department increased its footprint on evening shifts and added officers, which is their busiest time for catching drunk drivers. They’re focusing on DUI detection and enforcement, which Krasowski says is already paying off as they continue to see more DUI arrests.

The department says they’re entering their busy season when it comes to DUIs as the warmer months close in.

“We’re always looking for people to be responsible when it comes to consuming alcohol, and part of that responsibility is utilizing ride-shares, taxi services, making a plan before they go out, and looking after friends and family to ensure that nobody’s making a poor decision on getting behind the wheel after they consume alcohol,” Krasowski says.

In 2021, CPD made 356 DUI arrests.

118 of those arrests were made by Officer Zach Azari. Azari won Officer of the Year in 2021, and he holds numerous advanced training certifications related to impaired driving enforcement. Azari became certified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), a certification that only 100 officers have in South Carolina.

“We’re out here every single night,” Azari says. “It’s kind of unseen, what we do, just because people are at home asleep. The only people that see us are the offenders.”

The department is also focusing on educating youth about the dangers of drunk driving as high school prom season approaches. Officers will be going into local schools to do demonstrations for students.

“Kids, they make rash decisions. And with alcohol it makes it even worse,” Azari says. “They’re building their minds and we don’t want to end that life before it begins.”

Azari says there are misconceptions about drunk driving, especially that people think it’s a social norm. Azari says an average drink takes about 30 minutes to actually start showing effects.

So far this year, CPD has made 97 DUI arrests.

“When you’ve consumed those alcoholic beverages and you get in your vehicle, you could kill someone,” Azari says. “And that’s the most selfish act you can do.”

Krasowski also says they’ve seen an increase in boat traffic as the area continues to grow. He wants to remind the public that you can get a BUI if you’re drinking and driving a boat, which is equivalent to a DUI.

“If you are behind the wheel, we’re gonna find you, arrest you, and work towards prosecuting you,” Krasowski says.

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