While the holiday season and the spirit of overindulging in everything from buying gifts, to eating food, and having a few drinks, may be behind us there is one trend that regrettably remains: drunk driving. While drunk driving incidents certainly may spike over the holidays, with various parties and New Year’s Eve, we know that this is, unfortunately, something that happens far too often, year round.
It’s why organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) exist. Drunk driving is still the #1 cause of death on our roads each year and each day. According to MADD, there are “300,000 incidents of drinking and driving.” It is, therefore, MADD’s mission to “end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking.”
The Situation in South Carolina
MADD’s South Carolina state profile shows that some progress has been made in the state. Specifically, “Emma’s law passed in 2014 after a long battle to pass first-time offender ignition legislation. Name dafter six-year-old Emma Longstreet, who was killed by a drunk driver, the new law expands the punishment for all convicted drunk drivers including first-time offenders with a BAC above .15.”
While this is progress, I spoke with Chris Phillips, the Volunteer Coordinator for the South Carolina state office of MADD, who told me that South Carolina as a whole has a terrible injury and fatality rate as a result of drunk driving crashes. The data from 2016 shows that South Carolina had 336 annual drunk driving deaths, and drunk driving made up 33% of drunk driving fatalities. We can and must do better.
Chris shared that some of the focus areas for the South Carolina office are to:
- Focus on the victims and survivors of drunk driving crashes. He emphasized that these are crashes, not accidents, because accidents imply someone was not at fault.
- Provide awareness, both of the issues of drunk driving and that MADD is a resource there to assist victims and survivors. The South Carolina office has full-time victim advocates who are on staff to help victims. Chris told me that it doesn’t matter when the crash happened, MADD will be there for the families for as long as they need help.
- Advocate for strengthening existing drunk driving laws, and creating new ones.
These are just a few of the areas that the South Carolina office is working on, and each of them requires community support. From research, to supporting victims, to handing out red ribbons, Chris shared there are numerous opportunities to get involved with MADD in Columbia.
Ways You Can Help and Volunteer
- Help support victims and survivors by becoming a trained victim advocate or helpline volunteer.
- Show your support of law enforcement and first responders by being a part of events where MADD SC is honoring them. This past November, MADD SC participated in Hands Across the Border, which was “an event where South Carolina law enforcement join fellow officers, troopers, and deputies in Georgia/North Carolina to conduct joint checkpoints in their respective states.” In addition to the checkpoints, victims are remembered and law enforcement officers are appreciated.
- Participate in the Columbia Walk Like MADD event on March 23 at the SC Justice Academy. This year’s walk will honor Myles Holland who was killed by an impaired driver on Nov. 19, 2017 in Orangeburg.
Beyond volunteer opportunities with MADD, there are simple steps we as moms can take to help keep the roads safe. Whether it’s a girls night out or date night, make good decisions when it comes to getting home for the night. We are fortunate in Columbia to have both Uber and Lyft services readily available.
You can also volunteer to be a designated driver, and if someone volunteers to be your designated driver, Chris suggests celebrating them for doing so. Buy them a coffee or somehow show your appreciation for their commitment to giving you a safe ride.