2020 SC Drunk Driving Fatality Numbers Released

The 2020 drunk driving fatality numbers were released for the nation and each state. Below is the press release we sent out. Would you please make sure your House member knows how bad things have gotten?

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) South Carolina is horrified by the drastic and unacceptable increase in the loss of life on South Carolina’s roads during the pandemic, when fewer cars were on the road. According to new data released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol-related deaths spiked 14% from 2019 to 2020 in the nation while vehicle miles traveled decreased by 11%. South Carolina also had a 14% increase in alcohol-related deaths, rising from 276 fatalities in 2019 to 315 in 2020.

These figures once again put South Carolina as the 10th highest state for total drunk driving deaths, which is completely unacceptable for a state that is 23rd in population. Every one of the nine states with more drunk driving deaths has at least 1.5 million more people than South Carolina. The two states closest to South Carolina’s population total, Minnesota and Alabama, had 107 and 237 drunk driving deaths respectively.

“The whole nation suffered terribly from drunk driving crashes in 2020,” said Steven Burritt, MADD Regional Executive Director for South Carolina and North Carolina. “In South Carolina, we basically went from especially bad to especially worse. But it does not have to stay this way.”

MADD South Carolina can point to a number of needed drunk driving reforms, but primarily urges the passage of Senate Bill 28, which passed the Senate 41-1 in April 2021 but has received no House hearing. S.28 would strengthen “Emma’s Law” by requiring every convicted drunk driver to install an ignition interlock device for a period of time to start their car. Currently, the state only requires interlocks for repeat offenders or first-time offenders with a Blood Alcohol Content of .15 or higher. The 34 states that have gone “all offender” have had an average of a 16% reduction in drunk driving deaths, and the devices have blocked almost 3.8 million drunk driving trips in the US since 2006.

“Our laws are outdated and people are dying needlessly because of it,” said Burritt. “A bill that research can tell us for certain would save so many lives, is politically popular, and doesn’t require taxpayer dollars should have passed yesterday. These latest numbers coming out scream of the need for the House to move immediately.”

These new figures come just after South Carolina ended 2021 with the highest number of traffic fatalities in state history. The percentage of those that will be attributed to alcohol-impaired driving won’t be known for several months.

The 11,654 people killed in alcohol-related crashes nationally is the most since 2008. Overall, traffic crashes killed 38,824 people, more than any year since 2007.