Lawmakers considering bill requiring interlock system for drivers charged with DUI

If the bill is signed into law, SC would be the 34th state to have this legislation on the books

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —With the legislative session set to begin in less than two weeks, lawmakers are considering a bill that toughens the state’s stance on drunk driving.

This bill, if passed, would make a requirement for all those charged with a DUI after the bill is signed to have an interlock ignition system in their cars. This would include first offenders and those who refused to take a breathalyzer test.

Back in March, the Senate voted to move Senate Bill 18 over to the House. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Senators Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg County), Tom Young (R-Aiken County), Wes Climer (R-York County), Tom Davis (R-Beaufort County), and Kevin Johnson (D-Clarendon County)

Even though it is currently in the hands of the House Judiciary Commitee, Kimberly Cockrell with Mothers against Drunk Driving says the time is now for South Carolina to toughen its stance against drunk drivers.

“You could go and get a DUI tonight, and within 48 hours, you could have an alcohol provisional license in the state of South Carolina. That is unbelievable. It’s something that unfortunately we can’t change, but what we can do, is have an interlock put on that car which would keep us safe from the people making those decisions to continue to drink and drive,” Cockrell said.

If passed, the bill would require anyone charged with a DUI to have an interlock system temporarily installed in their car to make sure they don’t drive anywhere drunk.

Rep. Chris Wooten (R-Lexington County) says this could zero in on repeat offenders.

“Too many people are getting pled down to a different cause just to clear the courts. We got to make sure that we don’t just slap them on the hands and send them back out on the roads because they’re going to do it again. It’s proven that they do it over and over and over again,” said Wooten.

Rep. Beth Bernstein (D-Richland County), who is on the House Judiciary Committee, says she would vote in favor of the bill, but says it could be tough to quickly bring this bill to the floor.

“There’s a lot going on this session so it’s going to be hard to get a bill  through in five months. However, since it has already passed in the Senate, we’re halfway there,” Bernstein said.

Seeing firsthand the impact a drunk driver could have on a family, Cockrell says it is time to lawmakers to put the safety of drivers first.

“There’s a lot of tears I’ve witnessed, and there’s a lot I’ve shared with people. I would really instead love to meet them somewhere else like walking through this park as opposed to meeting them in the hospital or a funeral or a bond court hearing. We just want to be safe,” Cockrell said.

The head of the Criminal Laws subcommittee within the House Judiciary Committee is Rep. Chris Murphy (R-Dorchester County). He did not return our request for comment.

The bill is still with the House Judiciary Committee, but as of now, no subcommittee date has been set to discuss the bill.

If passed, South Carolina would be the 34th state to have an interlock law on the books.

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