NBC Los Angeles reports that on Wednesday, prosecutors issued a statement indicating that deadly DUI crashes are rapidly rising across at least seven California counties. This comes just as the holiday season is getting underway.
Authorities say that there has been a 15% increase in the number of traffic fatalities across the state since October. However, not all the fatal crashes involve at least one driver under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
District Attorneys across California are blaming the sharp increase on the coronavirus pandemic and a weary public after nearly two years of restrictions and less access to restaurants, bars, and other venues.
“We’ve been facing a difficult time for the last almost two years now,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said in a statement. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we are seeing increased DUI fatalities.”
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp echoed Schubert’s sentiment, saying, “This has been a stressful time for everybody. Alcohol sales have gone up. Consumption has gone up.”
California law enforcement agencies are also noting the change, but remind the public that the increase in DUI fatalities across the country has also been going up.
Citing a National Highway Safety Administration report, Fran Clader, spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol, said that the leading factors in the nationwide increase were impaired driving, speeding, and failing to wear a seatbelt.
According to the CHP, traffic deaths rose across California from 816 in 2018, 818 in 2019 and increased significantly to 941 last year.
Last year’s holiday season saw 38 traffic fatalities in a 78-hour period and 573 arrests of those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.