DUI related fatalities costing taxpayers billions of dollars

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DUI related fatalities increased by 16% between 2011 and 2012.

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DUI related fatalities increased by 16% between 2011 and 2012.

However, the pain and suffering is not the only cost associated with these tragedies. DUI related fatalities are also costing taxpayer dollars.

"In South Carolina every year drunk driving cost the state which is costing everybody paying for it 3.4 billion dollars a year," said Debbie Weir of MADD (Mother's Against Drunk Driving).

That price includes property damages, lost wager from work, health care cost, counseling, and law enforcement efforts during the accident among several other prices.

It takes $10,000 to process the case of the DUI offender, and Weir says enough is enough.

"Drunk drivers drive drunk because they can," said Weir. "They're car will start. That's why we need convicted drunk drivers to have the ignition interlock installed."

Several supporters of bill 137, better known as "Emma's Law" has been weighing heavily on the topic, especially since the recent death of a three year old boy, Josiah Jenkins.

Emma's law will require DUI first offenders to enroll in the ignition interlock program, where a mini breathalyzer will be installed in a person's car.

The individual driving will not be able to start the car if they fail the breathalyzer test.

"You hear tales whenever they come in here, they've lost their family, they got divorced, they lost everything simply over drinking and driving," said Ernie Ringer, one of a few ignition interlock installers in the Midlands.

Ringer says he has seen improvements from his clients and he thinks a bill to require interlock devices will curtail a lot of DUI 1st offenders from getting a second.

"A lot of them has actually told us that I wish I would have one this a lot sooner. Had I done this, I wouldn't have had that second DUI, or I wouldn't have gotten into that wreck that caused them to get that DUI," said Ringer.

South Carolina currently ranks as one of the worst states for DUI related fatalities.

DUI laws in the state currently give individuals two offenses before requiring them to install the interlock device.

Twenty states have already passed a bill requiring DUI 1st offenders to install the device, which Weir says has those states have seen a decrease in DUI related fatalities.

Weir adds that if lawmakers pass the bill in the Palmetto State, statistics here could possibly see an increase as well.

"That means the tax payers are going to be saving money, and millions of lives will be saved which is the most important factor," said Weir.