On the morning of Thursday, March 20, a South Carolina House subcommittee approved a stripped down version of Emma's Law – a bill designed to reduce alcohol-related traffic crashes and fatalities by requiring certain individuals convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) to install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) on their vehicles. Although supporters of the bill are happy it has cleared one of its biggest obstacles, the fight to preserve the bill's integrity and prevent further weakening will continue as it makes its way to the full Judiciary Committee.
Emma's Law – a bill that has been stagnated in the House subcommittee without a hearing for more than a year – is named after 6-year-old Emma Longstreet. On New Year's Day in 2012, Emma was killed in a drunk driving accident by a repeat DUI offender while on the way to church with her family. Emma's family and advocates across the state soon championed a new bill in an effort to prevent similar tragedies from happening.
Under the proposed bill, drivers convicted of a first DUI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .12% or higher would be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID). The current legal limit in South Carolina is .08%. An ignition interlock is essentially a breathalyzer that a motorist must blow into prior to starting their vehicle. If any level of alcohol is detected on the driver's breath, the IID will prevent the vehicle from starting. IIDs have been proven to reduce repeat DUI offenses, and states that require first time offenders to install IIDs report fewer alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
The most significant topic discussed during Thursday morning's hearing focused on just how aggressively the law should penalize first time DUI offenders. The new amended version of Emma's Law passed by the subcommittee reduces the number of convicted first offenders who would be required to install an IID by making the BAC threshold .15% rather than .12%.
The purpose of Emma's Law is simple – put an end to preventable DUI accidents, especially those caused by repeat offenders . Every 51 minutes in America, one person dies in a drunk driving accident, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Because these statistics are so alarming, the need for new, more aggressive laws should be clear.
Emma's Law also mirrors a nationwide push for harsher DUI penalties – penalties that send a clear message that drunk driving places others at serious risk, and that it will not be tolerated. Many states and jurisdictions across the country already require first time DUI offenders to install IIDs.
Protecting the Rights of Drunk Driving Victims
At George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers, our South Carolina car accident attorneys support Emma's Law, as well as victims and families throughout the state who have suffered harm as a result of impaired drivers. If you or someone you know has be hurt by a drunk or drugged driver, allow our firm to fight for the compensation you deserve. Call 888-612-7001 for a FREE case review.