Drunk driving danger rises in California

Even with strict penalties for drunk driving, California has seen a rise in the number of deaths associated with drunk driving between 2011 and 2015.

Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have worked tirelessly over the past several decades to increase awareness about the dangers of driving after drinking alcohol. At the same time, California has instituted some tough laws and penalties to help crack down on the prevalence of this dangerous and unnecessary behavior. But, statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that these laws may not be sufficient in helping to save lives.

How many deaths have occurred in California recently?

In looking at the NHTSA's records, a tragic trend can be seen in recent years. For four out of the five years spanning 2011 to 2015, the number of vehicular fatalities associated with alcohol has risen. In the one year without an increase, the decrease was far less than the increase in the other years.

Detailed information includes the following:

  • In 2011, there were 774 drunk driving deaths in California.
  • In 2012, 829 lives were lost at the hands of drunk drivers.
  • In 2013, the number of alcohol-related auto fatalities rose to 880.
  • In 2014, drunk driving deaths dropped by four from the prior year to 876.
  • In 2015, 914 people were killed by drunk drivers.

In Los Angeles County alone, between 130 and 187 people died each of these five years in drunk driving accidents.

What happens to drivers after they are arrested for a first DUI?

When an officer places a person under arrest for a suspected driving while under the influence charge, the person's driver's license is taken away. A temporary license allows the person to drive for the next 30 days before a four-month suspension goes into effect by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. A driver can attempt to appeal this suspension at a DMV hearing.

What criminal actions are taken against first-time drunk drivers?

In addition to license suspension by the DMV, a driver may face a six-month suspension as part of the criminal penalties. Jail time may be part of these penalties and while a sentence may last up to six months, it may be as short as 48 hours. Some drivers are able to apply for a shorter restriction period with approval to drive to and from work and court-mandated treatment.

The use of an ignition interlock device may be ordered for as long as three years with increased jail time. This can happen if the driver was exceeding the speed limit by 20 miles per hour on surface streets or 30 miles per hour on an interstate, had a blood alcohol content over 0.19 percent or was driving with a minor in the vehicle at the time of the arrest.

How can California residents feel safe?

Sadly there may be no way to prevent every person from making the negligent choice to drive after drinking. However, people who have been injured or lost loved ones in these accidents should always know they have the right to compensation. Talking with an attorney after such a crash is recommended in order to seek this help.