According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 13,384 people died in drunk driving related incidents in 2021 (the latest year for which the statistic is available).  This number, according to the NHTSA, represents one-third of all traffic-related fatalities and equates to approximately 37 individuals who die per day as a result of drunk driving.  Approximately 40 percent plus of the drunk drivers who were killed were ages 16 to 24 years old, with 21 to 24 -year-olds having the most drunk driving accidents in the United States. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 1 in 4 teen vehicle accidents involve alcohol. This is not surprising since this is the age group that is most high risk and presents a disproportionate number of dangers to society.

There is a mix of news in California. Let’s start with some good news. Per the California DMV Annual Report of the California DUI Management Information System (2022) (DUI MIS Report), DUI arrest rates have decreased significantly: more than halved since 2010 from 823 per 100,000 licensed drivers in 2010 to 357 in 2020. Alcohol related vehicle fatalities have also decreased but less so. DUI-related crash fatalities represented 39.1 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2010 and 31.8 percent in 2020. Alcohol related injuries though saw a slight increase from 10.6 percent of all crash injuries in 2010 to 11.4 percent in 2020. Unfortunately, drug related vehicle fatalities have nearly quadrupled over the past 25 years.

Repeat offender convictions have decreased significantly. This is good news and suggests that treatment for those with serious alcohol addiction is becoming more effective and better utilized. California courts have recognized that repeated punishments for DUI offenders with alcohol addictions is not always a successful approach. Collaborative courts allow the repeat DUI offender, under strict individualized supervision and treatment, to avoid incarceration and other punitive measures in favor of rehabilitative treatment. Research has shown this approach to be effective and to reduce repeat offenders from re-offending after successful completion of a DUI court program.

While repeat drunk driver offenders are a concern, it is the driver who has never been arrested for DUI who most often ends up involved in a alcohol or drug related fatal incident. Seventy-seven percent of all DUI and drug related fatalities are caused by drivers who have no DUI conviction on their record.

Even with ride sharing (which according to the National Bureau of Economic Research has reduced alcohol-related fatalities by 4 percent), heightened awareness, designated driver initiatives, harsher penalties, and every other effort to end driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, impaired driving remains a menace on our roads and highways.

Once under the influence, judgment is impaired, and a driver often imagines he or she is okay to get behind the wheel. That is why driving under the influence (whether that is alcohol or drugs) is best addressed before the impairment is initiated. Take the ride share or call a taxi to your destination. Sure, it’s more expensive but believe me, it’s cheaper than a DUI. Or, if possible, have a designated driver. Take public transportation if you live in an area where that is available. Walk to your destination if that is possible. The point is, you can nip impaired driving in the bud if you rely on your sober self before you become impaired.

We still make mistakes and Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg understands that. He endeavors to obtain the best outcome for you. He is available for a free consultation to review your case and offer his expert opinion on your best defense. You may contact him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.