A drunk driver faces several felony charges after causing a fatal head-on collision in Florence County, South Carolina (SC). The deadly crash happened near the intersection of Whippoorwill Road and Alligator Road outside of the community of Effingham at 12:40 am on November 19, 2017.
Highway Patrol troopers determined that the woman driving a car was under the influence of alcohol and operating with an open container of alcohol when she crossed from the eastbound lane of Whippoorwill Road into the westbound lane. The resulting collision killed another woman behind the wheel of an SUV. The at-fault driver suffered minor injuries and has been charged with felony DUI resulting in death, DUI, third-offense driving with a suspended license and “unlawful storage or transportation of alcohol.”
South Carolina statutes treat all drunk driving offenses as felonies and permit law enforcement officials to issue charges even when drivers have only consumed small amounts of alcohol. As section 56-5-2930 of the state code states, “It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.”
One reason the state chooses to do this is that officials see stiff penalties as a deterrent to a deadly problem. During 2015, the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) recorded 301 deaths in wrecks in which one or both drivers were under the influence. Nine of those fatalities occurred in Florence County.
In the report that presents those statistics, the DPS included the following chart to highlight the physical and mental impairments drivers experience at rising blood alcohol concentrations:
- BAC up to .06 -- Thought, Judgment, Coordination, Concentration
- BAC between .06 and .10 -- Reflexes, Impaired Reasoning, Depth Perception, Distance Acuity, Peripheral Vision, Glare Recovery
- BAC between .11 and .20 -- Reaction Time, Gross Motor Control, Staggering, Slurred Speech
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our deepest condolences out to the friends and family of the woman who lost her life on Whippoorwill Road in Florence County. We have helped many victims of wrecks caused by impaired drivers who have consumed only a few drinks, so we know there really is no “safe” degree of drinking and driving. Motor skills and mental focus fade with the first drink, so we urge all people to put down their keys when they choose to pick up up an alcoholic beverage.