LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) - A press conference at the State House on Tuesday afternoon will push for harsher DUI laws in the Palmetto State. The group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, will be joined by Governor Henry McMaster to make a public push for Senate Bill 18.
If passed, this will mean all first-time DUI offenders will need to have ignition interlocks installed on their vehicles. It’s a device about the size of a cell phone, which is wired into the ignition. A convicted drunk driver would have to blow into the device in order to start their vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle will not start.
Advocates say it’s a simple and economical way to make sure that offenders can drive to and from work, but also ensures that they can’t drive drunk.
Patricia Voelker of Lexington became a volunteer with MADD after her son-in-law and three adult grandsons were killed in 2010 by a drunk driver while vacationing in Florida.
Statistics show the average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before a first arrest.
“Here’s the problem- you get drunk, you drive home, you make it. So, you say, ‘I can drive drunk,’ and the next time you get drunk and you drive somewhere and you make it, you say, ‘See, it’s no big deal,’ and then the next time you get drunk and you drive and you hit somebody. Or, you crash your own car. Or you kill your girlfriend who’s sitting next to you. Or you kill a child in the car ahead of you because you couldn’t stop fast enough and you rear-ended them because you convinced yourself – by doing it and getting away with it – that you’re just fine,” Voelker said.
MADD representatives say despite them not being used to their full potential, ignition interlocks are already saving lives by stopping thousands of drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel in the Palmetto State. They’ve prevented at least 8,725 attempts to drive drunk over the past 12 years in South Carolina. In 2018, ignition interlocks blocked 1,743 drunk driving attempts.
Voelker tells WIS-TV she’s supporting Senate Bill 18 so that these devices can help save even more lives.
“Way too many DUI deaths are caused by somebody who has already had repeated DUI’s. If the first time that happened, you had to have an Ignition Interlock System installed in your car, that’s going to at least slow you down. It’s going to hopefully put you in a position where you can’t get drunk and drive.”
If Senate Bill 18 passes, South Carolina will become the 33rd state, along with the District of Columbia, to implement ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders.