Father behind 'Emma's Law' hopes to put pressure on lawmakers this session

Emma Longstreet
Emma Longstreet
David Longstreet
David Longstreet

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - According to a recent study, a single alcohol-related fatality in South Carolina can cost $4.9 million.

When you consider there were 358 DUI-related crashed in the state last year, that's billions you are paying as part of the alcohol-related crash bill.

There's a measure before the legislature to possible prevent these types of crashes.

This fight is personal for David Longstreet. His then 6-year-old daughter Emma was killed January 1, 2012 by a man now serving 9 years in connection with her death.

While they've had a bracelet campaign, they are stepping it up with bumper stickers and getting local business involved hoping the state will change its DUI laws.

In South Carolina, law enforcement catch 15,000 drivers or pedestrians a year with a positive blood alcohol concentration.

"What that cost regards is all the principalities, all the medical services, all the things that you know we don't see, you and I, regular citizens, the legal system, how the courts have to, move these issues through the court system," Longstreet said.

Longstreet said legislation (S. 137) that bears his daughter's name might save lives and $1.8 billion in taxpayer dollars. It requires the use of ignition interlocks for all repeat offenders and first time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of .12 or greater.

Now he's asking local businesses to urge the legislature with some simple letters on their marquees.

"They could publicize, pass Emma's law and try and keep that up as long as they possibly can, until the law makers can get this bill through," Longstreet said.

Alcohol related crashes accounted for an estimated 13 percent of South Carolina's auto insurance payments. Reducing those crashes by 10 percent could save drivers $56 million.

Longstreet said the device is a good deterrent and comes at a cost to the offender.

"If we can challenge these state leaders to go ahead and pass the bill as is and don't tamper with it for what reasons they're uncomfortable with I think they need to look deep in themselves and say hey what's the right thing for South Carolina for all the citizens here," Longstreet said.

Right now the measure is before a subcommittee in the House Judiciary Committee.

Longstreet said he's been pushing for a hearing before now worried time may run out before the end of the legislative session.

Opponents to the measure have pushed to have the threshold for a mandatory ignition interlock device raised to a blood alcohol concentration of greater than .15.

Sen. Joel Lourie said if he had to move mountains, he wants to see this legislation passed this year.

For more information about Emma's Law, visit emmaslaw.org.

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