South Carolina has taken a big step towards standing up to DUIs by passing “Emma’s Law” recently. “Emma’s Law” was named for six year old Emma Longstreet who was killed by a drunk driver in 2012. Emma’s family has lobbied for a law that might have saved Emma’s life by keeping repeat DUI offenders from getting behind the wheel of a car. Every year in South Carolina around 30,000 people are charged with DUIs. After Emma’s death another 500 people died without lawmakers taking action. The previous laws allowed for loopholes and led to offenders quickly returning to the roads.
“Emma’s Law” as it is written currently requires that all first time DUI offenders who are convicted of or plead guilty to a DUI with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or higher require the installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock device for six months. For a second offense of even 0.08 a driver must install and maintain the ignition interlock device for two years. These ignition interlock devices are hooked up to the ignition system of a vehicle and require a breath sample to start the vehicle. If the driver shows a blood alcohol content over a set limit the car will not start and the driver must wait to submit another breath sample. These ignition interlock devices have been proven to reduce the rates of repeat DUIs. These devices drastically reduce accidents and fatalities involving drunk driving.
The law originally called for installation of ignition interlock devices for a BAC of 0.12, but was later changed to 0.15. The current legal limit in the country is 0.08. While any intoxication impairs judgement and the ability to operate a vehicle, there is a big difference between these numbers.
- At 0.08 percent blood alcohol content a driver’s muscle coordination becomes poor, it becomes harder to detect danger, and skills such as judgement, memory, and reasoning are impaired. When behind the wheel of a car, drivers have problems with concentration, speed control, and reduced visual to mental processing capabilities.
- At 0.12 percent blood alcohol content reaction time is impaired drastically, speech becomes slurred, reaction times slow, and coordination further deteriorates. A driver’s ability to stay in one lane is impaired and so is their ability to brake.
- At 0.15 percent blood alcohol content muscle control is greatly impaired, there is a major loss of balance, and people with lower tolerances for alcohol may vomit. Behind the wheel of a car a driver at this blood alcohol content will have a substantial decline in the ability to control the vehicle, impaired attention to driving, and a sharp decline in visual, auditory, and mental processing capacities.
This bill is one of the first steps in lowering South Carolina’s high rate of fatal DUIs. Perhaps as South Carolina sees the benefits of this law stricter laws will follow and more states will follow in their footsteps. Ignition interlock devices are an important step forward in taking a stand against DUIs and DUI related fatalities. “Emma’s Law” shows what a family can accomplish when they take a stand against drunk driving. Hopefully in the future there will be less senseless victims, like Emma, due to drunk driving.