The South Carolina Senate on Wednesday unanimously agreed with the House on a DUI bill known as “Emma’s Law,” sending the proposed law to the governor’s desk.
Gov. Nikki Haley has said she will sign the bill, which is named after 6-year-old Emma Longstreet. Longstreet was killed when a drunk driver slammed into her family’s van on New Year’s Day 2012. Her parents David and Karen have since gotten involved in S. 137, which would require certain drivers convicted of DUI to install breathalyzers in their vehicles in order to get their suspended license back.
“I’m relieved. I’m happy. But I would’ve rather had her here,” Karen Longstreet told WLTX after the vote. “But, I think she’ll save lives. She wanted to be a veterinarian, so instead of saving animals, she’s going to save people.”
The new law would require some first-time convicted DUI offenders to install “ignition interlock” devices on their vehicles for six months in order to restore a suspended driver’s license. The driver would need to blow into the device before starting it. The device will not allow a car to start if it detects alcohol. Ignition interlock is already required after second conviction. The state Department of Probation, Pardon, and Parole Services said 731 drivers are registered to use them statewide.
The Senate initially approved a tougher version of the bill last year that required the devices for a driver with a .08 blood-alcohol level (when a driver is legally considered impaired under state law). But the House raised that requirement to a .15 BAC when it approved the bill last week.
A second offense will now require the device for two years, while a third conviction would get four years.
“We do know that there are very few opportunities that we can take a vote in this General Assembly that will save lives,” the bill’s sponsor Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said after the vote. “I think the actions we took today will do just that.”