With Memorial Day kick-starting the summer season in Santa Monica, law enforcement agencies are warning residents about the dangers of drunk driving.
The Santa Monica Police Department recently arrested a suspected DUI driver on the 1100 block of 26th Street. In that incident, the driver of a Jeep Patriot hit two parked cars and flipped the vehicle on its roof. According to SMPD he had minor injuries and officers determined the driver was intoxicated and almost twice the legal limit for alcohol. The incident was one example of the accidents that local officers are seeing on a regular basis.
DUI, like many crimes, has steadily increased from a pandemic era lull. There were 182 DUI arrests reported in 2019 and that number fell to 126 in 2020. It grew slightly to 131 in 2021 and then to 167 last year. In the first quarter of this year, SMPD reported 35 DUI arrests.
During last week’s Memorial Day weekend the CHP arrested 314 people in the first 24 hours of their Maximum Enforcement Weekend, an increase over the 241 arrested in the same time last year.
According to SMPD, every day, about 37 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 39 minutes. In 2021, 13,384 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths — a 14% increase from 2020. These deaths were all preventable.
“You can’t drive safely if you’re impaired. That’s why it’s illegal everywhere in America to drive under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, opioids, methamphetamines, or any potentially impairing drug–prescribed or over the counter,” said SMPD in a statement. Driving while impaired by any substance—legal or illegal—puts you and others in harm’s way.”
SMPD conducts regular traffic enforcement operations, including DUI checkpoints and efforts targeted at specific kinds of violations such as motorcycle awareness or bike/pedestrian safety that also net drunk drivers.
Consequences for DUI violations vary by severity of the incident but can include probation, fines, loss of a license and for more serious felony charges, jail is a possibility.
SMPD also conducts decoy operations to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors, including a recent sting that resulted in one clerk being cited for sale to an underage customer.
Those who sold to the minor face a minimum fine of $250, and/or 24 to 32 hours of community service for a first violation. In addition, ABC will take administrative action against the alcoholic beverage license of the business where alcohol was sold to a minor. That may include a fine, a suspension of the license, or the permanent revocation of the license.
ABC is conducting the compliance checks statewide to reduce the availability of alcohol to minors. Statistics have shown that young people under the age of 21 have a higher rate of drunken driving fatalities than the general adult population.
“Minor Decoy operations hold accountable those who sell alcohol to minors,” said ABC Director Eric Hirata. “Keeping alcohol away from youth is a priority.”