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South Carolina Tops the List for Most Drunk Driving Deaths in the Country



South Carolina still sees far too many deaths resulting from drunk driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collected data from all 50 states in 2017 to determine which states had the highest incidences of drunk driving fatalities. South Carolina unfortunately ranked second on that list, with only Wyoming beating it out.

According to the data, South Carolina had 6.22 impaired driving deaths per 100,000 people. While that number is lower than Wyoming’s 7.59 deaths per 100,000, it is still far too high. In fact other than Wyoming, no other state was higher than the Palmetto State.

“It is hard to say why South Carolina still sees so many deaths at the hands of drunk drivers,” said Gary Christmas of the Christmas Law Firm, LLC. “In this state, there are just as many laws surrounding drunk driving as others. Fines, license suspensions, and even jail time are all possible consequences of even a first-time DUI offense. Yet here the state is, still ranking at the top of the list.”

It is a trend that continues to happen in South Carolina. The state also placed at the top of the list in 2016. Other states that showed up on both the 2016 and 2017 list were North Dakota, New Mexico, and Alabama. Only Wyoming, which now has the most impaired driving deaths, was not in the top five in prior years.

As for the states that had the fewest deaths due to drunk driving? New Jersey topped the list there, with only 1.38 fatalities per 100,000 people. Following New Jersey were New York, Minnesota, Utah, and Massachusetts.

Lawmakers in South Carolina are aware of the problem. In early 2019, Republican Governor Henry McMaster and Attorney General Alan Wilson supported a bill requiring ignition interlock devices for any driver charged with drunk driving. These devices require the driver to blow into a machine before starting their vehicle. It is only when the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is lower than 0.02 percent that their car will start.

Imposing ignition interlock devices is a move many other states have already made. When they did, they saw drunk driving deaths reduced by an average of 15 percent. If South Carolina could enact these laws, perhaps the state could avoid ranking at the top of the next list released by the NHTSA.


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