Drunk driving convictions bring new ignition interlock requirements to South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina is expanding the number of drunk driving offenders who must install temporary breathalyzers before taking the wheel.

Under the new law, anyone convicted of driving under the influence will have to breathe into a device that confirms no measurable alcohol levels exist before they can operate their vehicle. The requirement could last up to six months and is effective now for offenders registering a .08 blood alcohol content or higher, instead of the previous .15 limits.

“It’s OK to drink if you want to and it’s OK to drive if you want to, but not both at the same time,” Gov. Henry McMaster said at a bill signing ceremony on Wednesday.

Statistics show South Carolina has some of the highest rates of deadly impaired driving in the country. The state’s 0.58 rate of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled fell behind only Montana and Oregon, according to 2020 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The new law requires that people who get multiple DUI convictions spend up to one year driving with the device, known as an ignition interlock.

Funds are available to help qualified applicants cover associated expenses. Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto said the device costs about $150 to install and $3 every day in usage.