The amount of traffic on the streets and highways in Northern California plummeted after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area in March of 2020. Traffic has been steadily increasing since that time but is still not as high as the pre-outbreak levels. However, the rates of drunk driving arrests appear to have increased.
DUI Arrest Rates Increased After Stay-at-Home Orders
In San Diego County, law enforcement reported an increase in DUI arrest rates and excessive speeding citations in March and April of 2020, during the county's stay-at-home orders. The Sheriff's Department reported an arrest rate for DUIs of 11.79 per 100 infractions, compared to an average of 6 DUI arrests per 100 fractions during normal 2-month spans.
The rate of DUIs continued at a higher than average rate when the stay-at-home orders lightened up. San Diego County law enforcement reported an average of one fatal crash caused by an impaired driver every week from June to November in 2020. However, during the same period, there were about 30% fewer fatal crashes that did not involve alcohol or drug impairment.
Drinking at Home Then Driving Impaired
Instead of going out to bars and restaurants to drink, many people have just been drinking at home. It may be harder to regulate your own alcohol consumption when you are in charge of pouring your own drinks. There is also no bartender to cut you off after you've had too many.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol for the week ending March 21, 2020, compared to the year before. A survey found alcohol consumption increased overall by 14% during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the number of days using alcohol. Heavy drinking also increased, defined as 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women.
California 2020 DUI Statistics
According to one estimate, the U.S. was on track to lower the total fatality rate per 100 million miles driven. In 2018, there were 36,835 drunk driving deaths with a fatality rate of 1.13. In 2019, the number of drunk driving deaths fell slightly to 36,096 and the fatality rate fell to 1.10.
The effects of COVID-19 did not reduce the rate of drunk driving fatalities. By September of 2020, the number of impaired-driving fatalities increased 5% while the number of total miles traveled dropped by 14.5%. This increased the fatality rate to 1.35 drunk driving fatalities per 100 million miles driven.
California usually has the highest number of impaired driving fatalities because California has the highest population in the U.S. In 2017, there were 1,120 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in California and 2,275 non alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. The state with the next highest rate of alcohol-impaired fatalities was Florida, with 839.
However, if you look at the rate of fatalities by population, California is nowhere near the top. Wyoming has the highest rate of drunk driving fatalities, with 7.60 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 people.
After a DUI Arrest in the East Bay
East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 37 years of DUI experience and understands the challenges involved. Helping drivers in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, contact the local criminal defense lawyer who understands that you do not have to have your life turned upside down just because you were arrested.