The South Carolina House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a new version of Emma’s Law earlier this week. Passage through this House committee was a big step for the bill and allows it to move on to the House floor, where legislators could vote on it as early as next week.
As passed by the Senate in February 2013, Emma’s Law would require all convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.12 or higher to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles.
However, the version of Emma’s Law passed by the House Judiciary Committee and entering the House floor would require all convicted drunk drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or higher to install an interlock, a provision that supporters say weakens the bill. The BAC was raised by the House Judiciary Subcommittee.
Executive director of the South Carolina Crime Victims’ Council Laura Hudson believes the change weakens the bill when you consider South Carolina’s drunk driving history. For example, 30% of the 315 traffic fatalities that occurred in 2011 were caused by drunk drivers with a BAC under 0.15, according to Hudson. Supporters of the bill, including David and Karen Longstreet, the parents of the girl the bill was named after, hope that lawmakers will bring the BAC back down to 0.12 while on the House floor.
Currently, South Carolina only requires ignition interlocks for repeat offenders, so either form of the bill is a step in the right direction. However, a BAC limit of 0.12 would certainly give the bill more strength.
Emma’s Law was named after 6-year-old Emma Longstreet, who was killed by a repeat drunk driver on January 1, 2012. Emma’s father, David Longstreet, has been a strong advocate for the law ever since.