Emma's Law moves forward in Columbia, calls for tougher DUI penalties

Emma's Law moves forward in Columbia, calls for tougher DUI penalties

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Almost seven years later, Kelly DeHay remembers the last moments of her daughter's life.

"A drunk driver, who had a .16 BAC and was a repeat offender, was driving a vehicle he did not own, and he had no insurance, and he had only gotten a half mile before he hit us."

Two-and-a-half year-old Kasey Heger died instantly.

"I was numb for a very long time and sad. I'm always sad about it, but the emotions that I get from it I channel into trying to help others make sense out of why a little girl had to go."

DeHay is a staunch supporter of harsher penalties, like breathalyzers or ignition interlocks in the cars of all convicted drunk drivers. They're installed by some automotive centers around the state. The device measures a person's blood alcohol content or BAC.

"Take a breath. What's going to happen? If I pass and everything, it will go beep-beep, a little sign will come and say pass," explains George Whitehead, the service advisor at Mark's Super Service Center in North Charleston. "At that time I can take my ignition, start my vehicle."

The new law would require the breathalyzers in the cars of first-time and repeat offenders who have a BAC of .15 or higher. The legal limit in South Carolina is .08.

DeHay says whether or not Emma's Law passes, she will not lose hope and continue fighting for her daughter.

"All I can do is honor her memory and keep her memory alive and keep on going."

The Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services oversees the ignition interlock program. It says there are currently 731 people in the state who are mandated to use it.

Emma's Law will go to the House floor next week.