Attorney General Alan Wilson: Don’t drink and drive; call Uber or a cab

In the United States, nearly 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related cases. It’s the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation. While alcohol is legal for adults 21 and older, it can be deadly if used irresponsibly, regardless of age.

It’s important for individuals of all ages to learn the importance of alcohol responsibility. As a parent, I understand that it will be my duty to talk with my children at the appropriate age so that when presented with the opportunity to consume alcohol, they are prepared with all of the facts. It’s never too soon to begin the conversation, as there are age-appropriate ways to explain alcohol to children.

As a society, we have come a long way when it comes to alcohol responsibility. Over the last two decades, drunk driving fatalities have declined 36 percent nationwide. In South Carolina, we passed legislation known as Emma’s Law in 2014 which greatly strengthened our DUI laws and helps fight against repeat offenders with the required use of Ignition Interlock Devices (IID).

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), underage drinking kills approximately 5,000 people each year. That’s more than all illegal drugs combined. Teenagers often think they know everything, but as parents, we understand that there is a lot they don’t understand.

Underage drinking can lead to other negative behaviors, such as unwanted or unintended sexual activity, drug use, tobacco use or even academic problems.

At the same time, our children should understand that if they choose to drink, they should never drive while intoxicated, or allow a friend to. Of the approximately 5,000 young adults who die as a result of underage drinking, 38 percent of those deaths involved motor vehicle crashes.

It’s important to remind children that if they do consumer alcohol, they should never get behind the wheel of a car.

It isn’t just our children who need to be reminded of alcohol responsibility. Adults can be just as irresponsible when it comes to alcohol.

When I first met the Longstreet family, I was forever impacted by their story of losing their then six-year-old daughter, Emma, because of a drunk driver. The driver was of legal drinking age, and had previously been arrested for a DUI.

This tragedy was 100 percent preventable and completely inexcusable.

Luckily, the General Assembly passed Emma’s Law and it is now law. However, this is just one step toward eradicating this reckless behavior.

In South Carolina, the Department of Public Safety reports one person is killed or injured in a DUI crash every 2.1 hours. Compared to other states, South Carolina is among the worst in the nation for DUI related deaths at 46th out of 50, with 358 fatalities in 2012.

As an adult of legal drinking age, it’s important to know your limit. What does it really mean to drink responsibly? There are many factors that determine how alcohol will affect you, such as gender, height and age. Alcohol affects everyone differently, it’s important to know how much you can handle before you take the first sip.

If you do drink, never get behind the wheel. In today’s world, there are many services, such as Uber, that make it easy to get home safe and sound. A DUI can cost up to $10,000, but a cab ride can cost $20. The risk is not worth it. Designate a driver, take a taxi or call an Uber – there’s no excuse to drink and drive.

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