The COVID pandemic affected just about every aspect of American life, and DUI enforcement and prosecution in South Carolina was no exception. Though societal restrictions have largely gone away as of this writing, the impact remains. At MADD South Carolina, we felt that impact was significant enough and had long-term impact enough to write this special report specifically on how we feel we can best encapsulate that impact. In the summer months of 2021, we held five “stakeholder roundtable” discussions t hat included knowledgeable individuals from all seven counties where we conduct court monitoring. Invitees included judges and magistrates, prosecutors, law enforcement, and key community partners. MADD staff presented key data to the attendees and then facilitated very valuable discussions about their impressions and additional information needed to understand how COVID has impacted both enforcement and prosecution of DUIs in South Carolina.
MADD South Carolina Court Monitoring Program Overview
MADD monitors the outcomes of first offense misdemeanor DUI cases in seven large South Carolina counties. The starting dates in those counties ranged from 2016 to 2019. The counties where we currently monitor are Berkeley, Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Lexington, Richland, and Spartanburg. The program’s goals are to compile relevant statistics regarding the dispositions of DUI cases in the courtrooms, to raise awareness of the level of public concern regarding the dispositions of DUI cases, and to report information on the dispositions of DUI cases in order to make improvements to the DUI enforcement, prosecution and/or adjudication systems. In our past three reports associated with this work, we focused primarily on the DUI conviction rates in those counties. This report is different as we are focusing primarily on observations related to COVID’s impact generally and not tying in specific case outcome data.
Alarming South Carolina DUI Statistics
According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in early 2022, alcohol-related deaths spiked 14% from 2019 to 2020 in the nation while vehicle miles traveled decreased by 11%. South Carolina also had a 14% increase in alcohol-related deaths, rising from 276 fatalities in 2019 to 315 in 2020 despite a 7% decrease in miles driven. This once again put us as 10 th highest in drunk driving fatalities and 4 th highest on a population rate basis. Sadly in 2021, South Carolina had more overall traffic fatalities than any year in our history.
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