Crime & Courts

As New Year’s Eve approaches, SC ranks 2nd in most drunk driving deaths, report shows

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South Carolina has more deaths from drunk driving than any state in the Southeast, according to a report.

WACH reported on a study that showed the Palmetto State ranks second for most DUI fatalities in the United States. The ranking was based on 2017 data. In that year, South Carolina experienced 6.22 impaired driving deaths per 100,000 people, the study showed.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol has ramped up its Sober or Slammer campaign, which looks to decrease the number of DUI incidents, during the 2018 holiday season and the coming New Year’s Eve celebrations. Columbia Police Department also announced that it will have increased check points to try to catch impaired driving until the end of December.

Trooper David Jones of the SCHP told WACH that New Year’s Eve is one of the deadliest days to be on the road because more people drink and drive.

“Speed, alcohol, a distraction to seat belts contribute to a lot of our fatal collisions, so that’s what we focus on,” Jones told WACH. “We need to get the community behind us. As troopers we can do so much, but we want drivers to make a conscious effort not to get behind the wheel of a car. ... The key thing here is if you are going out and celebrate, we want you to have a good time but be responsible.”

The SCHP says that nearly 22,000 DUI arrests were made in South Carolina last year. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 331 deaths were caused by drunk driving in South Carolina during 2016.

The worst state for alcohol related driving fatalities is Wyoming, the data shows. North Dakota, New Mexico, and Alabama finish out the top five. Of those five, South Carolina is the only state that has a minimum jail time for first-time DUI offenders, according to the study. In SC a DUI arrest requires a minimum two days jail time, the report says.

The study says that every state of the five worst, except Wyoming, decreased its rate of drunk driving deaths year over year in 2017.

Safewise DUI study.jpg
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David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.