Is California tough enough on drunk drivers?

In 2011, 774 people died in drunk driving accidents in California. That number tragically rose to 874 in 2014 and then to 914 in 2015.

One could say that any life lost in a traffic accident in California is one life too many. This is so regardless of the cause of an accident. However, when a fatal accident is caused by a completely preventable set of actions, like a person making the choice to drive after drinking, the tragedy experienced by those left behind can feel even worse than if the accident was truly unavoidable.

Sadly, California seems to have been experiencing more of these accidents than it had for a while.

California's drunk driving fatalities

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 774 people killed in the state of California by drunk drivers in 2011. Imagine 774 funerals or memorial services that really did not need to happen all because someone did not want to get a ride home or refuse to drink.

For the next two years, the number of those unnecessary deaths increased first to 829 in 2012 and then to 880 in 2013. The following year saw little change as the overall number of people killed in drunk driving accidents in the state came in at 876. The glimmer of hope that may have been present after the decline in fatalities by four people was shattered in 2015. That year, 914 lives were lost at the hands of drunk drivers in California.

California's drunk driving laws and penalties

For some time now, California has considered a person driving a passenger vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher to be legally intoxicated and able to be charged with a driving under the influence offense. For a person with a commercial driver's license who is operating a commercial vehicle at the time, that level is 0.04 percent.

A new law will take effect in California next year that will recognize the commercial 0.04 percent threshold as the benchmark for intoxication for a person driving a passenger vehicle for hire such as a ridesharing driver.

If convicted of a first-time DUI offense, a driver may be required to spend 96 hours to six months in jail, lose the right to drive and be mandated to participate in substance education or treatment. Fines for a first offense start just below $400 and may reach up to $1,000.

The growing number of deaths on California roads due to drunk drivers may suggest that these penalties are not enough to deter people from making dangerous choices. This is just one reason that people involved in these tragic accidents are advised to talk to a lawyer. Getting legal help may be a good way of pursuing compensation and getting the word out that drunk driving really is dangerous.