South Carolina ranks 2nd in nation for drunk-driving deaths

South Carolina ranks 2nd in nation for impaired driving deaths
Source: WMBF News
Source: WMBF News

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A report released this week has South Carolina ranking second in the nation for drunk-driving deaths.

The report from SafeWise, a home security company, also designates South Carolina as a focus area to help fight the number of people getting behind the wheel while impaired.

SafeWise used the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find the number of impaired driving deaths in each state.

That data was compared to U.S. Census Bureau estimates to determine which states ranked the highest for impaired driving deaths per capita.

In S.C., there were 7.98 impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 residents, according to the report. That is second to Montana with nine fatalities. According to SafeWise, a higher population doesn't necessarily mean more impaired driving deaths.

The most recent data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety – 2016 figures – states that in Horry County alone, there were 19 fatalities due to impaired driving.

Jessie Marlowe, prevention director at Shoreline Behavioral Health Services, was not surprised to hear the statistic.

"For Horry County specifically, we (have) over 2,000 outlets that sell alcohol. So this is a tourist destination where partying is kind of the atmosphere and it's a common and popular place for people to come and try and have a good time, but that can also result in DUIs and DUI crashes and also hurting other people," Marlowe said.

SafeWise explained on its website the No. 1 cause of death for Americans age 5 to 24 is car crashes. Nearly one-third of fatal crashes in 2016 were caused by impaired driving. That came out to one alcohol-related driving fatality every 50 minutes.

For Marlowe and the staff at Shoreline Behavioral, education is key.

"Whether you're a cashier or a server or bartender, we have education to teach laws and liabilities about over-serving alcohol or even serving alcohol to minors," Marlowe said. "Also, be open. Even if someone is arrest for DUI and the case is dismissed, there could still be treatment services they could maybe take advantage of."

According to the agency, DUI crashes are up and referrals into programs are going down. Staff think the reason is people decide not to get a license or end up driving on a suspended license. Their biggest referral is through the court system

"For someone who receives a DUI, if it's convicted or reduced to reckless driving, they would be court mandated to come and receive what's called our ADSAP program in order to get their driver's license back," Marlowe said.

The ADSAP program is the South Carolina-led, eight-week-long alcohol and drug safety action program.

"Our purpose is to educate risky behaviors that got people in a situation where they had a DUI or a DUI crash in the first place, whether it's a property crash, bodily harm to themselves or another person or a fatality " Marlowe said.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is kicking off their state-led Sober or Slammer campaign on Aug. 17 and running through Sept. 3. Troopers will work with local municipalities to help keep the roadways safe.

Click here to find out how to receive Lyft credit, SafeWise is sponsoring during their campaign leading up to Labor Day weekend.

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