South Carolina has the third-worst record in the country for drunk driving deaths, according to a study by 24/7 Wall Street. The study says nearly 360 people were killed in South Carolina in drunk driving accidents in 2012, accounting for a fatality rate of 7.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

Many of the victims of drunk driving accidents were under age 18. There were 2.8 underage deaths per 100,000 people caused by drunk driving accidents in the state in 2012, sixth highest in the country.

One of the children killed by a drunk driver in 2012, Emma Longstreet, is the namesake for Emma’s Law, a new drunk driving statute recently signed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Emma was killed and her family was injured when the vehicle they were in was hit by a repeat-offender drunk driver.

The law requires people with a first conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or greater to install an ignition interlock device on their car for six months. The device tests the driver’s breath and won’t allow the car to start if it detects alcohol. The law requires drivers with a second DUI conviction with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or greater – the state’s legal limit – to use the ignition device for two years.

The law is another way for South Carolina to combat the problem of drunk driving. The 24/7 Wall Street study reported that police in the state arrested more than 17,900 motorists for drunk driving in 2012, the 20th highest tally in the country.

The study also reported that South Carolina residents consume 32.7 gallons of beer per capita each year, meaning the state has the nation’s 16th highest rate of beer consumption.

Marc Liverman, a reporter with WPDE NewsChannel 15 in Conway, recently sought to find out why drunk driving deaths are so high in South Carolina. Myrtle Beach Police Patrolman First Class George Johnson attributed it to two things – a large number of vacationers who come to the state looking for a good time and local residents who think they won’t be the one to get stopped or get into an accident.

But drinking alcohol and driving never mix. There are consequences, and some of them are deadly.

We don’t want South Carolina known for drunk driving. Our state has a rich history, beautiful beaches, wonderful food, Southern hospitality and so many other positive attributes. So, if you’re going to drink, do it responsibly. Take a taxi or use a designated driver. It could save a life – maybe your own.

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