DUI arrests have dropped this year for a few reasons, all tied to COVID-19. According to California Highway Patrol data, DUI arrests through April 30, 2020, dropped by nearly 42% compared to the same time period in 2019. Stay-at-home orders and the shutdown of bars and restaurants played a role in these numbers.
As counties relax rules and allow outdoor drinking and dining, the number of impaired motorists may creep back up, especially as more people turn to alcohol to cope. According to a Nielsen survey, for the week ending May 2, 2020, alcohol sales were up 32% compared to the same week in 2019. However, police may not be as vigilant on the highways.
Why You Should Take Extra Precautions When Driving
Some counties have paused DUI checkpoints during COVID-19. Unconfirmed reports show halted DUI checkpoints in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
Alameda County had a pause in checkpoints between March 17, 2020 and July 2, 2020, but they seem to have resumed, as two checkpoints were reported in July. San Francisco conducted checkpoints the weekend of August 21, 2020.
This means if you’re on the road you’ll want to be cautious of other drivers. If checkpoints aren’t happening as often, there may be more intoxicated drivers on the road.
Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs simply isn’t worth the risk. First, the penalties are steep: for a first-time offense within 10 years, you’ll face anywhere between 4 days to 6 months in jail and/or 3 to 5 years of probation; a fine of between $390 and $1,000, plus penalties; and you’ll lose your license for 6 to 10 months. If you took a breath or urine test, you may get your license back after four months.
Do you need to drive to get to work? You’ll have to apply for an ignition interlock device (car breathalyzer) or a restricted license.
All that hassle doesn’t include the risk of a vehicle collision, which could cause serious, if not fatal, injuries to yourself, your passengers and/or other drivers.
If you’re susceptible to “wine down Wednesday” and Zoom happy hours, take note that alcohol impairs the lungs and the immune system—two systems you want to keep strong during this pandemic. Stick to mainly nonalcoholic beverages for your virtual and physically distanced social gatherings. Save the cabernet and cocktails for special occasions.
To avoid a DUI on your record, and to keep your auto insurance from going sky-high because of a DUI crash, simply don’t drive while impaired. Remember the blood alcohol level is .08% — a drink or two can put you over the legal limit, depending on your body weight and gender.
During COVID-19, if you must drive, designate a member of your household to drive. If you feel safe taking a rideshare, do so – and wear a mask. You can also remind your friends and family to designate drivers or simply don’t drink if they plan to drive.
Even with DUIs on the decline, they’re still a leading cause of traffic accidents and fatalities. Keep yourself healthy and safe during the pandemic by driving responsibly.
If you end up in an accident with a suspected impaired driver, get medical attention right away. As soon as you’re ready, call our office for a free consultation.