As Southland residents prepare for upcoming holiday celebrations, the Automobile Club of Southern California and the LAPD today reminded drivers of the dangers on the roads this season. To strengthen efforts to protect the public against drunk drivers and reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths, the Auto Club is urging partygoers and families to “Designate a Sober Driver” before festive gatherings where alcohol may be served. The LAPD echoed the road danger threat and also reminds drivers to “Drive Sober or Be Pulled Over” because they say law enforcement will be out in force looking for drivers under the influence.
The Auto Club encourages the public to sign an online pledge to drive alcohol and drug free this holiday season and can do so by visiting www.takethepledge.aaa.com
An Auto Club analysis of the most recent five years of state crash data available (2007-2011) shows that alcohol-related fatalities and injuries jump sharply during end-of-the-year holidays. “Some years, alcohol-related fatalities and injuries are as much as twice as high during Christmas and New Year’s as they are the rest of the year,” said the Auto Club’s Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “During Christmas, alcohol-related fatalities and injuries are 70% higher than the rest of the year, while during New Years they are 86% higher.”
“If alcohol-related crash rates had not increased over the five years we looked at, we would have averted 1,536 deaths and injuries,” added Villagrana. “That’s 307 fewer needless tragedies each year.”
California enforcement officials arrest large numbers of DUI offenders every year. In 2012, 175,407 drivers were arrested for the offense, or enough to fill Dodger Stadium more than three times. “Motorists need to be aware that law enforcement agencies are targeting drinking drivers, and that’s especially true around the holidays,” according Los Angeles Police Dept.’s Sgt. Mark Guardado head of West Traffic Division’s DUI Task Force. “The toll from drinking and driving in California is enormous,” said Guardado. He added that in California, 24,000 individuals were killed or injured in alcohol-related crashes in 2012.
People convicted of driving under the influence may find themselves vulnerable to losing many important things in their lives, such as family, job, dignity and money. The Auto Club estimates that a first offense misdemeanor DUI conviction in California can cost approximately $15,649 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs. The figure is up 29% over the few years – largely due to court fees, penalty assessments and insurance increases. The cost of an under age 21 first-offense misdemeanor DUI is $22,492. (DUI convictions remain on driving records for 10 years.)
Today, the Auto Club also helped Southlanders with their holiday parties by asking bartenders from AAA Diamond-rated restaurants and hotels -- West Hollywood’s Fig & Olive and the Los Angeles-based Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar -- to demonstrate festive and new alcohol-free “mocktail” recipes for hosts to prepare. Their original mocktail recipes and others can be found at aaa.com/Mocktails
In addition to combined DUI awareness efforts with the LAPD this year, the Auto Club also will hand out 12,000 DUI educational cards to its members in LA and Orange counties via its network of roadside assistance contractors. The cards, which can be used at restaurants and bars, too, have the Auto Club’s estimate of a DUI misdemeanor, a taxi number and a tipping chart on them. They are being distributed today (Thursday, Dec. 12) as well.
The Auto Club and LAPD advise that motorists can avoid DUI arrests by following these safety tips:
- Before social events, designate sober drivers who can get everyone home safely.
- Never serve alcohol to those under age 21.
- Call a friend or family member for a ride home if you have been drinking.
- Keep a cab company telephone number in your wallet/cell phone so you can call for a ride home.
- As a party host, offer a variety of non-alcoholic drink alternatives, food and dessert, and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers.
- Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink.