South Carolina Worst in the Nation for Drunk Driving

South Carolina Worst in the Nation for Drunk Driving

2013 fatality data reveals 44% of South Carolina traffic deaths related to drunk driving

Columbia, S.C. (January 7, 2015) – Recently, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) South Carolina learned that South Carolina had 335 drunk driving deaths in 2013 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  While this represents 13 fewer drunk driving deaths than 2012, the state rose to number one in the rankings due to 44% of all state traffic deaths being caused by drunk driving.  The national average is 31%. 

“Improvements aren’t being made fast enough, and it’s a shame that we lead the nation in such devastating circumstances,” said MADD South Carolina Program Director Steven Burritt.  “It forces us to ask ourselves as a state once again whether we’re doing everything we know we should to drive these numbers down.  We know the answer is that we’re not.”

MADD was hoping to see greater declines in drunk deaths for the state, considering that overall traffic deaths dropped 11% from 863 in 2012 to 767 to 2013.  However, drunk driving deaths dropped by only 4%. 

Nationally, drunk driving deaths once again topped 10,000 in 2013, though they dropped from 10,322 in 2012 to 10,076 in 2013.

MADD is several years into its Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, which outlines steps to end drunk driving deaths.  The Campaign calls for more high visibility law enforcement through sobriety checkpoints, all convicted drunk drivers to use an ignition interlock device, and the development of advanced vehicle technology, like the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), which one day can eliminate drunk driving completely.

South Carolina had a victory in its efforts to embrace the Campaign this year when Emma’s Law went into effect on Oct. 1.  Emma’s Law expands the use of ignition interlock devices to first-time offenders with a high BAC, but that is not the full measure recommended by the Campaign.

“Emma’s Law is going to help with these numbers going forward, for sure,” said Burritt.  “But we did not go as far as 24 states have done to require these devices for every DUI offender, so we can’t expect the kind of massive drops those states had.  Also, Emma’s Law can only meet expectations if those who should be convicted of drunk driving actually are.  We know this isn’t happening.”

In 2015, MADD South Carolina will be joining with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and others to attempt to make changes to the state’s law regarding videotaping of DUI arrests.  Local accounts indicate a rising trend of cases being thrown out over minor flaws in the videotape recording, sometimes for reasons out of officers’ control. 

“When clearly impaired individuals are having their charges thrown out because someone stumbles out of the frame briefly or half a body part is cut off on the recording, we’re not keeping the public safe from drunk driving like we should,” said Burritt.  “These are roadside dash cam recordings, usually at night.  They are not travelling TV studios.  We’ve got to bring back some sanity to this process.”