San Diego County sees decrease in DUI fatalities

This year, San Diego County recorded fewer fatalities than in 2021, which was the worst year on record. The previous record — 33 fatalities — was set in 2020.

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San Diego County is on pace to record fewer DUI fatalities in 2022 than last year, when the region set a record, according to data from the District Attorney’s Office.

As of Dec. 21, DUI crashes in the region had killed 29 people.

Siren
(File photo)

Last year, the county recorded 39 fatalities. It was the worst year on record, and it came a year after a previous record — 33 fatalities in 2020.

Overall DUI cases are down — from 6,034 in 2021 to 5,408 in 2022 as of Dec. 20. But the percentage of cases that involved a combination of alcohol and at least one other substance, like marijuana or a prescription drug, was greater this year compared to last year.

Deputy District Attorney David Uyar, who prosecutes DUI cases, said the District Attorney’s Office remains “concerned about these senseless and entirely preventable tragedies.”

“We all know driving under the influence is dangerous. Despite the abundance of alternatives, from designated drivers to ride shares and taxis, too many individuals decide to risk not only their lives, but the lives of everyone around them,” he said in an email. “The extreme blood alcohol content and prevalence of mixing alcohol and other drugs is highly alarming. We all use the roads, which means we all could become another statistic in the next fatal crash.”

Authorities in the region recently received grants from the California Office of Traffic Safety to tackle the problem.

Last week, the county Sheriff’s Department announced its crime lab — which serves several agencies in the region — was awarded a $990,000 grant to improve testing capabilities for alcohol and drugs in criminal cases. The funds will be used to train staff on new instrumentation and equipment that will identify and determine the concentration of drugs and other chemicals in DUI samples.

The department is also expected to provide quarterly data to stakeholders, including the California Office of Traffic Safety, the California Highway Patrol and county agencies.

“Ultimately, the Crime Lab’s research will provide rich insight on emerging trends and other factors that could affect impactful campaigns in reducing impaired driving countywide,” the department said in a news release.

According to the department, 374 people were killed in DUI crashes in the region between 2016 and 2020.

“These numbers are not just statistics,” the department said. “They are mothers, fathers, children, spouses, grandparents, friends, brothers or sisters.”

In November, the District Attorney’s Office announced it was awarded a grant for the ninth consecutive year to prevent and prosecute DUI crashes. The office received $733,650 from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

The grants help fund the DUI Homicide Unit — a team of specialized prosecutors and investigators. DUI crashes around the county are prosecuted as murders, as opposed to deadly DUI crashes. The latest funds will pay for training for prosecutors and investigators, among other efforts, the District Attorney’s Office said.

When the District Attorney’s Office announced the grant, it said the average blood-alcohol content among drivers involved in DUI crashes was .18 percent. Drivers in California are considered legally impaired at .08 percent or higher.

The Sheriff’s Department noted December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month and asked the public to plan for safe celebrations during the holidays. The department encouraged the public to:

  • Remember it is never OK to drink and drive.
  • Plan a safe and sober ride home ahead of time.
  • If you’re hosting a gathering, make sure all guests have a sober ride home.
  • If you know someone who is impaired, take their keys and don’t let them get behind the wheel.
  • Call 911 if you see an impaired driver.
  • Always wear your seat belt.

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