With latest death, coroner looks to public, lawmakers to stem th - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

With latest death, coroner looks to public, lawmakers to stem the tide of DUIs

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Richland County Coroner Gary Watts is no stranger to death, but he's seeing an uptick in one type of tragedy that he's hoping he can enlist the public to help him prevent.

"We probably are somewhere around 70 percent of our fatalities involve people under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Richland County,' said Watts.

The latest victim of a suspected drunk driver is 3-year-old Josiah Jenkins. Troopers say Josiah and his mom were on North Springs Road Friday night when Lonnie Gross, III crashed into their vehicle.

"We've got to do something. Something has to happen. Especially with these repeat offenders," said Watts.

Gross' record shows four DUI convictions.

"It's a very selfish act when they get behind the wheel of a car when they're intoxicated, and it puts everyone in danger," said Watts.

Investigators say Gross was driving with a suspended license when he drove into Jenkins' vehicle.

"They shouldn't have the ability to get behind the wheel of a car and crank it up and drive it, under any circumstances," said Watts.

Watts wants South Carolinians to convince lawmakers to do something.

"We need to come together in some kind of action to help stop this," said Watts.

He hopes some day he no longer has to tell people their loved ones died because of impaired drivers.

For two years, David Longstreet has been urging legislators to consider a law named after his 6-year-old daughter, Emma. She was killed by a drunk driver on New Year's Day 2012.

Emma's Law would make it mandatory for repeat offenders and first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol concentration of greater than .12 to have an ignition interlock device installed on their car.

Currently, the measure is before a subcommittee with the House Judiciary Committee.

Lawmakers expect a hearing from that committee sometime in the next two weeks.

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