COLUMBIA, S.C. — According to new statistics have found the number of alcohol-related deaths have increased, and South Carolina is the 10th highest state for drunk driving deaths.
According to the most recent stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 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.
One Midlands mother can tell you the numbers are more than statistics. They represent real people, each leaving behind family and friends to cope with the loss.
November 18, 2017, is a day Alphene Holland will never forget. The Sumter mother of six says she was asleep when she got that heart wrenching call no mother ever wants to receive.
“They couldn’t tell me anything," Holland said. "All they said was that he had been in an accident."
Holland says her son Myles was playing Uno with some friends on homecoming weekend, when he decided to go get something to drink with his girlfriend. Holland says the Claflin University graduate was hit and killed by a drunk driver in Orangeburg.
Holland describes the scenes at the hospital, seeing all of Myles' fraternity brothers, friends and families waiting and praying for Myles recovery.
“When we got to Orangeburg, there was a sea of people," Holland said. "The hospital area under the portico was crowded, the waiting room was crowded.”
The Holland family soon got devastating news about Myles. “We went to a small room, and they told me Myles had passed.”
Talking to NEWS19 via zoom, Holland described the pain she still feels, knowing her 23-year-old will never fulfil his dreams.
“We know their dreams came to an end that particular day, that particular night.”
South Carolina Highway Patrol Master Trooper David Jones pleads with drivers to never get behind the wheel after drinking, saying, "30% of our traffic fatalities are alcohol related.
"We need drivers to take responsibility," Jones said. "If you're going to go out, whether it's for St Patty's Day … you need to have a plan in place and that plan needs to include a sober designated driver.
Steven Burritt with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) wants interlockers installed, a device that requires those charged with a DUI to blow into, in order to start their car.
"Now, we're pushing Senate Bill 28, which would basically strengthen Emma's Law, so that everybody that gets convicted of DUI would have to get one of those devices for some time," said Burritt.
Emma's Law currently only requires repeat offenders and those with a blood alcohol higher than .15 have an interlocker installed. The proposed new law would require anyone convicted of DUI to install an interlocker.
"You can never undo the tragedies once they've occurred," Burritt said.
As for Holland, she created The Myles Project, an organization to honor her son's memory and raise awareness about the dangers of drink driving.
“I fight so hard because this hurts so much,” Holland said.
Holland says Myles graduated in the spring of 2017 with a degree in criminal justice. She says he planned to be a law enforcement officer, with the hope of one day owning his own security company.