Holidays No Excuse to Drink and Drive

December 17th, 2015 by

The holidays are known for parties—at the office, in the neighborhood, with the family—lots of parties. Having some “holiday cheer” is a well-established tradition.

Drinking and driving is a tradition that needs to be retired—permanently. Certainly, everyone knows that you should not drink and drive. And yet, there were 27,000 Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests in South Carolina last year. In fact, U.S, 44% of all traffic fatalities in South Carolina involve alcohol vs. 31% nationally. That officially makes us the worst in the nation.

Local police departments join law enforcement agencies across the state to combat drunk driving in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign through Sept. 7.

Last year, the SC Legislature passed Emma’s Law. Named after, 6 year-old Emma Longstreet who was killed by a drunk driver; the bill requires DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device on their cars. Drivers must blow into the device before the car will start. First-time offenders must have a blood alcohol level below 0.15 and repeat offenders below 0.08.

It has been 35 years since Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was formed and lobbied for stricter driving laws. They estimate that as many as 330,000 lives have been saved because of their efforts. In South Carolina, the Department of Public Safety “Sober or Slammer” program aims to dramatically reduce drinking and driving.

Given the publicity, public education, driver checkpoints and other efforts over so many years, it is somewhat remarkable that 27,000 people were arrested for DUI in a single year. How many more were driving and did not get caught?

Driving under the influence is a conscious choice, one that risks both your life and the lives of innocent people. As being impaired may prevent you from making a responsible decision, make the decision NOT to drive before you start drinking. Have as much “holiday cheer” as you wish but please elect a designated driver, give your keys to a friend, call a taxi, or plan to spend the night – choose any alternative other than drinking and driving.

State police urge you to call *47 if you suspect a drunk driver. Let’s make this a safe and happy holiday for all.