Governor McMaster Signs Ignition Interlock Bill!

South Carolina became the 35th state to require ignition interlock systems for all drivers convicted of driving under the influence, expanding what has become known as Emma’s Law around the United States.

The bill, S. 36, also known as the Ignition Interlock Bill, will require installing an ignition interlock device — a car breathalyzer that measures the amount of alcohol in your breath — upon a first-time conviction DUI at .08 Blood Alcohol Content or higher, upending the old law that required the installation at a DUI at .15 BAC or higher. S. 36 was championed by Sen. Brad Hutto, House Judiciary Chairman Weston Newton, House Criminal Law Subcommittee Chair Jeff Johnson, and Speaker of the House Murrell Smith. And the piece of legislation comes at a time when South Carolina is grappling with worsening alcohol-induced fatal driving accidents.

“MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is grateful that Governor (Henry) McMaster and South Carolina legislators recognize the need for every convicted drunk driver to have these devices on their cars so they cannot drive impaired again and put themselves and others in grave danger,” Tess Rowland, MADD national president, said. “MADD advocates for these laws in honor of Emma and so many others who cannot be with us today because of someone’s choice to drive impaired.”

Inspiration from the bill comes from the story of Emma Longstreet, a 6-year-old killed in 2012 by a drunk driver who struck the family’s car. Emma’s Law around the country requires ignition interlock systems for first-time and repeat drunk driving offenders.

In South Carolina, the state is grappling with a 45 percent increase in drunk driving deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.

And in 2020 and 2021 combined, 720 people died because of drunk driving accidents. The 2021 total of 401 deaths was the highest total since 2007. South Carolina is the 8th highest state for drunk driving deaths.

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“MADD South Carolina has worked year after year to reach this day because we know that states with the strongest ignition interlock laws see an average 16% reduction in drunk driving deaths,” said Steven Burritt, MADD Regional Executive Director for South Carolina and North Carolina. “Requiring every offender to use an interlock will help change dangerous behavior while protecting South Carolina communities from the horrific tragedies caused by drunk driving.”

Following the signing, Gov. McMaster stated that he believes it is a bill like S. 36 that will make roadways and highways safer in South Carolina.

“Too many South Carolina families have been tragically impacted by reckless drivers under the influence of alcohol,” said Gov. McMaster. “This legislation will significantly reduce the number of DUI incidents across our state and ultimately save the lives of countless South Carolinians.”