Articles Posted in Drunk Driving Accidents

After a motor vehicle crash in Escondido caused by a drunk driver or a drugged driver, is it a given that the intoxicated driver was at fault for the accident? In many (and even most) cases, the answer is yes, but sometimes complications can arise. Our Escondido car accident lawyers can explain.

Negligence and Alcohol or Drug Intoxication

Any motorist who drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol fails to behave as a reasonable driver would and is likely negligent. When a driver is negligent, they can be liable for any injuries in a crash they cause. In a DUI case in California, there are many ways you might be able to prove that the drunk or drugged driver was at fault, such as:

When drug-impaired drivers cause injuries in traffic collisions in San Marcos, it is essential to hold those drivers accountable and seek compensation. What do you need to know about drugged driving crashes in Southern California? The following are five important things to consider.

  1. Drug-Impaired Driving is Unlawful and a Motorist Can be Liable for Injuries

It is important to know that impaired driving does not just include alcohol-impaired driving. Drug-impaired driving is dangerous and unlawful in California, even if using the drug is otherwise legal if you are not behind the wheel of an automobile. 

kalu-ci-146209-300x200When you live in Encinitas or in a nearby part of North County, you likely know about the risks of alcohol-impaired driving. We often hear about DUI laws in California and the serious consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights how an average of 28 people sustain fatal injuries in car accidents each day caused by drunk drivers (or, to put that number another way, one person dies every 51 minutes because a driver decided to drink and drive).

What about drugged driving? How does smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana affect a person’s ability to drive safely? How often do prescription drugs or illegal substances play a role in serious and fatal car accidents in Encinitas? According to a recent report from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS), the FDA’s newly finalized study provides guidance on drugged driving.

Drugged Driving Laws in California

800px-Guardian_Interlock_AMS2000_1-300x225There is a new impaired-driving law that will take effect in San Diego in 2019, but right now, the law is already in force in certain counties in California, according to a report from Late last year, California Governor Brown signed SB 1046 into law, a piece of legislation that “establishes a statewide ignition interlock device (IID) program to prevent drunk drivers from re-offending.”

Background Information: SB 1046 and the Ignition Interlock Device Program

Given that impaired driving is a major cause of car accidents in California, it is important to take steps to prevent these crashes from occurring in the first place. Changes to California’s law when it comes to ignition interlock devices could be one such significant step in prevent crashes caused by alcohol-impaired driving. According to David Kelly, the Executive Director of the Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers (CIIM), “this new law is a positive step forward to help slow the revolving door of unlicensed, uninsured drunk drivers who continue driving at the public’s peril.”

file0001569965691According to a recent report from NPR, car accidents are the leading cause of death for American teenagers, and in a surprisingly high number of those crashes, alcohol plays a role. About 25% of all teenage traffic collisions involve alcohol. In states where there are substantial restrictions on alcohol usage and serious repercussions for impaired driving, the rate of teenage auto accident fatalities tends to be lower, according to a recent study reported by NPR. What do the findings of this new study tell us? California and states across the country should put policies into place that help to curb teens’ purchase and use of alcohol, and to take steps to make the consequences of drinking and driving more severe.

Regulations on Alcohol Sales for the General Population

When we talk about regulations aimed at limiting the purchase of alcohol and its consumption by underage teen drivers, what kinds of regulations are we thinking about in practice? According to the NPR report, there are a number of regulations that can accomplish these goals with relative ease, and all of them target the general population. In other words, policies aimed strictly at teens do not tend to have the results we want. Rather, it is important to consider regulations that would limit alcohol purchases for everyone, including San Diego residents who can legally purchase it. Examples of these policies include but are not limited to:

Is it safe to be a pedestrian in busy urban areas? Earlier this month, an elderly couple died in a tragic accident in Valley Center when a suspected drunk driver hit them, according to a report in UT San Diego. Pedestrian accidents occur much more often than we’d like to think, and it’s important to know how to be safe while walking on our busy roads.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), California is among the top states when it comes to pedestrian fatalities. If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident case, it’s important to speak to an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible. In California, there’s a two-year statute of limitations from the date of the accident, and you’ll need to file before then in order to be eligible for compensation. Contact us today to discuss your claim.

Details of the Valley Center Accident

Parties are particularly prevalent during the winter holiday season, but many people do not need a special reason to get together and enjoy a few drinks. When those social gatherings occur in a home, the host is often the provider of both food and drinks. In these situations, the question is whether a social host is responsible for the actions of a drunk guest, either during or after the party. alcohol-15470_640.jpg

For example, imagine that you are hosting a large New Year’s Eve party. You have invited all of your friends, and almost everyone accepted the invitation. Your home is full of people who may not know one another, and alcohol is consumed as a social lubricant. Everyone is having a great time, eating and drinking and enjoying the night. Unfortunately, because it is your party and there are a lot of guests, you have not been able to closely observe to ensure that no one is becoming too intoxicated. A few hours after the ball has dropped and the party has ended, you receive a call that one of your guests had too much to drink at the party and was involved in a car accident on their way home.

In some states, under social host liability, you could potentially be held liable for the accident and forced to pay some or even all of the damages. The theory behind such laws is that the social host has at least some control over the amount of alcohol consumed by his or her guests. Of course, as the above example illustrates, that is not always the case, since it is difficult to keep track of every guest’s alcohol consumption in a large party. In addition, it is not often easy for party hosts to even track when a guest has departed for home.

On October 4, 2012, a retired Newport Beach policewoman, Katherine Ann Heinzel of Winchester, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter for a drunk driving accident that occurred last November. Heinzel rear-ended another car on Interstate 15 in Falbrook, both cars going hrough a guardrail and down an embankment. The other driver, 20-year-old Davieonne Kelly of Perris died at the scene and two of his passengers were injured.bad588_123.jpg

In the past 30 years, drunk driving has become a focus for many governments, particularly after Mothers Against Drunk Driving was founded in 1980. Groups like MADD petitioned and lobbied the government to enact stricter penalties against driving while intoxicated and to lower the limit for blood alcohol content while driving. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, drunk driving accidents still occur with alarming frequency. More than 1/3 of all fatal car accidents in California are alcohol-related.

While most of the focus on drunk driving is on the criminal side, there is also civil liability for a drunk driver when someone else is injured or killed. Unlike the criminal system, where the drunk driver will face jail time, in the civil law system, the injured person or their family may seek monetary compensation for the injuries and damage sustained by the victim and their family.

A few weeks ago, over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we brought you a report that showed an increase in an San Diego drunk driving arrests over the same holiday weekend last year. Unfortunately, according to Signs on San Diego, during this past weekend’s holiday festivities, we saw a continuation of that trend. Last year, over the weekend of Christmas, police in San Diego County arrested 33 people on suspicion of driving under the influence. Over the same weekend this year, police made 56 arrests for driving while under the influence. Because Christmas fell on a Saturday last year and a Sunday this year, the relevant period of measurement in both years fell between Friday evening and early Monday morning.

This report demonstrates that in spite of an increased focus on drunk driving and a greater emphasis on arresting those who drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, there are still far too many drivers getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink. Indeed, drunk driving continues to be one of the biggest contributors to San Diego car accidents, even though the last few decades have seen citizens across the state and across the nation rally to increase awareness, safety regulations, and enforcement.

Like most, our San Diego car accident attorney would like to see the number of drunk drivers on the road decrease in 2012. One of the reasons that drunk driving continues to be so prevalent is that there continues to be a lack of adequate social pressure to counteract the tendency of bar patrons and party-goers to believe that they are “okay to drive” even when they have been drinking. The problem is that, unlike with many other crimes, fellow bar patrons are often unwilling to try to dissuade their friends from driving and even less unwilling to confiscate keys, especially when the driver is not obviously impaired. Additionally, people metabolize alcohol at different rates, and a drink that puts one person over the legal limit may not even put another person close to the legal limit. Therefore, it can be difficult for people to tell if they themselves are impaired, let alone their friends. CarAccident7706.2.JPG

Despite ever-increasing attention on drunk driving across the country, the arrest rate for San Diego drunk driving over the Thanksgiving weekend went up this year, with officers bringing in 88 drivers, as opposed to last year’s 85. The measured time was from 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening until 6 a.m. Sunday morning, which means over the 4 nights there was an average of 22 arrests each night. Arrests were also up in neighboring Orange County with 69 drunk driving arrests compared to last year’s 39. In addition to those arrested, there were almost certainly many more intoxicated drivers who were not caught.

The trend in San Diego and Orange Counties is not isolated. A quick online search for Thanksgiving drunk driving searches reveals that San Diego drunk driving arrests are up in states across the country, from California to Maine and everywhere in between. The time of the year Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is notorious for having the highest rate of drunk driving incidents. Work holidays and long weekends give rise to later nights, more parties, and more alcohol, all of which lead to more people getting behind the wheel when they really should not.

The legal blood alcohol content limit in California is .08 percent. The amount of alcohol that it will take to get a particular person to that level varies depending on the weight and metabolism of the drinker, as well as the alcohol content in the beverage and how fast it is consumed. Some people, especially those who do not drink very often, experience impairment at lower levels. The best practice is simply not to drive if you have been drinking.

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