2018-01-26 / Front Page

S.C. scores below average in MADD report on drunk driving

Contributed by MADD

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has released the 2018 Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving Report to the Nation, which rates every state’s drunk driving laws and highlights drunk driving countermeasures related to MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. The report explains MADD’s vision to literally eliminate drunk driving in America.

The state rating of drunk driving reform efforts placed South Carolina laws just below average. South Carolina received 2.5 stars on the 5-star rating scale with the national average for states being 2.9 stars.

“With our record of being among the worst in the nation for drunk driving fatalities, this report is another reminder that many of these life- saving improvements are right in front of us,” says Steven Burritt, executive director for MADD South Carolina.

“Priority No. 1 definitely is passing an all-offender ignition interlock law. I hope 2018 is the year the legislature shows we can’t accept this anymore.”

Burritt reports there are discussions taking place right now to get an all-offender interlock bill introduced this year. It would build upon the expansion of the ignition interlock program that was a part of “Emma’s Law” in 2014.

National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration 2016 data shows South Carolina had 331 drunk driving deaths in 2016. Only five states in the nation had more though South Carolina ranks 23rd in population.

MADD awarded stars to states for adopting drunk driving laws and/or implementing proven countermeasures that include:

• Conducting sobriety checkpoints

• Ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders

• Creating enhanced penalties for those who drive drunk with children in the vehicle

• Participating in “no-refusal” activities for those suspected of drunk driving, such as expedited warrants and requiring ignition interlocks for suspected offenders who refuse an alcohol test

• Utilizing Administrative License Revocation for drunk driving offenders — the revocation of driving privileges upon arrest

The five categories each have two subcategories, allowing for half-star ratings for states that need to improve their existing laws. For example, all states that conduct sobriety checkpoints receive a half-star, but those that conduct them at least once a month receive a full star.

South Carolina received full or partial stars for its frequency of public safety checkpoints, automatically revoking licenses when drivers refuse to submit a breath or blood sample upon arrest, criminalizing those refusals, and having a child endangerment charge for adults who are arresting for DUI with a child passenger. The report recommends passing an all-offender interlock law, making interlocks available to first-time offenders upon arrest, and making DUI child endangerment a felony to improve its rating and increase public safety.

“We’ll keep talking about these needed changes until we finally get some movement on them,” says Burritt. “Every drunk driving crash is 100 percent preventable and could very well be a new family that will reach out to us. It’s an honor to serve them, but I wish we wouldn’t have to.”

MADD’s Report to the Nation is available at madd.org/2018campaignreport. MADD is the sole author of the report, which is based on 38 years of experience working to pass lifesaving legislation, along with data from various respected government, research and public safety organization sources. For more information about MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, visit www.madd.org/campaign.

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