MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Alcohol sales and consumption saw an uptick across the country during much of 2020. In some areas — including here in the Lowcountry –DUI cases are also on the rise. Local law enforcement and activists are hoping to curb the trends.
“You know I have good days and bad days and I just try to focus on what my purpose was from the accident,” says Alana Long, a victim of an alleged drunk driving incident.
Long woke up May 27th, 2020 not knowing her life would soon change forever. It all happened on Bohicket Road on John’s Island. Long recalls the accident vividly.
“I was hit. The driver came into my lane. My mom had shattered her hip and arm and had to [have] multiple surgeries, and then my two-year-old son was in the accident but fortunately he…came out unharmed.”
The fourth passenger, Long’s unborn child, didn’t make it out alive. She was 30 weeks pregnant at the time of the accident, and says the pain of losing her child will stick with her forever.
“It was losing my child, you know that’s still my darkest,” says Long. “I have hole in my heart. I think maybe the hardest part was the first time I got to see my child he had already passed on. His soul was in another place and so when I met my child for the first time, he was no longer with us. That was incredibly difficult.”
Since the accident, Long has started working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.A.D.).
“I think everybody saw a bit of an increase in DUIs last year,” says Isle of Palms Police Chief Kevin Cornett. “I couldn’t say how much or how significant they were.”
For Isle of Palms Police Chief Cornett, his small island department felt the impacts more than others.
“About this time last year March-ish, we realized that the numbers began to creep up and started keeping a bigger eye on it just realizing and it continued on that trend,” says Chief Cornett.
Isle of Palms police say there has been a sharp increase in DUI cases over the past two years. In 2019 there were 33 DUI cases, in 2020 the number more than doubled to 71 cases. So far in 2021 there have been 9 DUIs, 6 of them coming in February.
“It shows that we’ve got an issue with people that think they can consume alcohol and drive,” says Chief Cornett. “A lot of times they might not realize that they are under the influence or that they are impaired in a manner that’s going to affect their driving.”
Not only are they unsafe, DUIs can be costly for those arrested. In most cases, racking up thousands of dollars in fines and court fees and in some cases even worse – causing someone to lose their life.
“The driver has to live with it,” says Chief Cornett. “The sentence in jail is bad but you also have to live with the thought that your actions took somebody’s life that day and it’s definitely I’m sure not what they intended to do when they were out drinking that night.”
A shattered Lowcountry family grieving the loss of their unborn child just a month away from being born, hopeful their message to others will be heard.
“The hurt that you can cause potentially by hitting somebody, it’s just unimaginable and so I would really like for people to understand their actions,” says Long.
When it comes to impaired driving, statistics show the State of South Carolina has been among the top five worst for DUIs and related deaths dating back to 2016. In 2019, South Carolina averaged 5.7 deaths per 100,000 people which was good enough for third worst. During the same three-year time period, Charleston County had 414 DUIs.