Troopers Call DUI Death An Epidemic

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Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A day after the grandnephew of Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins died when his car was hit by a drunk driver, state troopers say they deal with DUI every day and hope the community will pitch in to keep drunk drivers off the street.

"A 3 year old lost his life for no other reason than someone had poor judgement, didn't care about public safety and decided to drink and drive," said Lt. David Jones with the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

DUI contributes to almost half of all South Carolina motor vehicle deaths every year.

"It's something we see as an epidemic here in South Carolina," Jones said.

In this case, troopers say Lonnie Gross, 43, was behind the wheel.

Gross has a history of DUI arrests going back to 1993. He was convicted four different times.

"Each time the charge is upgraded to a second or third or fourth offense, the penalties increase," Jones said.

Troopers can see previous DUI convictions from their patrol cars but might not see arrests where charges were dropped or a suspect was found not guilty.

"Just because you take someone's privledge to drive, you take the plastic card out their wallet, that doesn't mean you're going to take their means to drive. Someone can steal a car, they can get a girlfriends car, and continue going down the road," Jones said. "A 3 year old child was hit by a drunk driver on the way to pick up dinner. A senseless crime where a small child lost his life."

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