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COVID-19 and Drunk Driving Risks in California

California has been dealing with COVID-19 for more than 2 years now. Long after the first lockdowns and mask mandates, a lot of people are getting back to normal life or making minor changes in how they interact with others. When it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol, the coronavirus pandemic may still be having an impact. 

There were a lot of anecdotal stories about people drinking more during the pandemic and there were still plenty of drunk driving arrests and accidents even when most people were supposed to stay home. 

Whatever the reason, when a driver is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) in California, they have the right to a legal defense. If you want to know about how you can avoid a criminal conviction or jail time after an Oakland DUI arrest, talk to your experienced East Bay DUI defense lawyer for help. 

Were People Drinking and Driving More During COVID?

There were plenty of news articles claiming people may have increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic but increased alcohol sales do not necessarily mean people are drinking more. Many people were stocking up in anticipation or shortages or as a way to avoid going out to the store and putting themselves or their families at risk. Just like toilet paper, meat, and dry goods like beans and rice, buying more alcohol does not mean more drinking and driving. 

A study by the RAND Corporation found that “alcohol consumption during the coronavirus pandemic declined among men, while it remained steady among women.” Alcohol use was higher during the early days of the pandemic, but declined or remained more steady as the pandemic leveled out. 

Impaired Driving During Coronavirus

There were not necessarily more drunk drivers during COVID. A study in Romania actually found that “the number of drivers tested in traffic for alcohol showed a marked decrease during the lockdown.”

However, impaired drivers may have stood out more to patrolling police. Many people were staying at home for a lot of 2020, especially workers who could do their jobs from home. There were definitely fewer cars on the road in 2020 and even normally traffic-jammed freeways and roads in the East Bay were relatively empty. 

Drunk driving arrests are more likely to happen during the evening and early morning hours. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), “drunk driving is more common at night. Half of all the fatalities during the nighttime (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) involved drunk drivers, as compared to 14 percent during the day.”

Alameda County, Contra Costa, and other Bay Area counties issued the shelter-in-place order on March 16, 2020. If the police see a lone driver on the road in Oakland at 2 a.m., that driver may stick out and the police could more easily notice the driver weaving, driving without headlights, or swerving to avoid a collision. Unfortunately, these same suspicions may only indicate a driver who is distracted or tired. Drowsy driving can be dangerous but it does not mean the driver should face charges for a DUI. 

Stress Drinking and Impaired Driving

There may have been some actual impacts of COVID-19 and impaired driving. COVID-19 was a very stressful time. It was hard to get accurate information about the future and the risks involved. Because of stress and anxiety, people may have consumed drugs, alcohol, marijuana, or a combination of substances as a way to deal with the pressures.  

Alcohol and COVID Risks

A study published in Frontiers in Nutrition appears to show different types of alcohol consumption are associated with different risks of coronavirus disease mortality. Does it make a difference how sick people got based on what type of alcohol they consumed? According to the study, consumption of beer, cider, spirits, and heavy drinking is associated with increased COVID risks. However, high frequency of white wine, champagne, and red wine reduced the risks of COVID-19.  

East Bay DUI Attorney 

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of DUI experience and understands the defenses that work in a California DUI case. Representing drivers and their families in Oakland and Alameda County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local DUI laws, and the local officers and prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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