Despite the efforts of national advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and state and federal agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving remains a problem in the Golden State. Statistics maintained by the California Department of Motor Vehicles show that, for the year 2008 (the most recent year for which statistics are available on the DMV’s fact sheet):
- There were over 200,000 DUI arrests;
- Between 2001 and 2008, there were between 1,300 and 1,500 DUI-related fatalities each year;
- This is in addition to the 28,000+ alcohol-related traffic injuries that occurred in 2008.
Drunk driving accidents in Los Angeles can result in serious physical injuries and extensive financial losses. You may be entitled to recover compensation if a drunk driver causes an accident resulting in injury to yourself or the death of a loved one.
How Intoxication Affects a Person’s Driving Abilities
It is well-established that alcohol consumption can negatively impact a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. While each individual will respond to alcohol differently, excess alcohol consumption can lead to:
- Impaired judgment (the individual will take risks that he or she would not otherwise take);
- Impaired reaction time (the individual takes a longer amount of time to respond to stimuli – like realizing he or she is driving on the wrong side of the road); and
- Impaired senses (the individual will take longer to see other objects or hear sounds);
For these reasons, alcohol consumption followed by driving is oftentimes considered to be a negligent act that subjects the drunk driver to legal responsibility for any injuries he or she causes to other people on the road. Liability can exist even if the driver’s alcohol concentration is below 0.08.
Special Considerations Involved in Drunk Driving Accidents
When you are involved in a drunk driving crash, receiving immediate medical attention is of paramount importance. Once you are able to do so, you should contact your car accident attorney so he or she can begin investigating your case. Your attorney will want to attempt to locate and preserve evidence showing:
- Where the driver obtained alcohol and witnesses who observed the driver consuming alcohol before getting behind the wheel;
- Other motorists who may have seen the driver’s impaired driving and reported him or her to law enforcement;
- If the driver was being pursued by law enforcement just before the crash, any law enforcement videos that capture the driver’s behavior;
- Law enforcement reports and reconstructions that provide insights into all the factors contributing to the crash;
- The driver’s blood- and/or breath-alcohol concentration; and
- The presence of other drugs – illegal or prescription – that the driver had also consumed that could have interacted negatively with alcohol and furthered impaired the driver.
Some of this evidence can be irretrievably lost if prompt action is not taken to preserve this evidence. The sooner your car accident lawyer is contacted and involved, the more evidence he or she is likely able to locate and preserve.
Can I Avoid a Drunk Driving Crash?
Unfortunately, there is nothing California drivers can do to completely insulate themselves from drunk driving accidents. However, there are certain steps you can take that may reduce the likelihood that you will be hit by a drunk driver. Consider the following:
- Avoid driving late at night or early in the morning when bars and taverns close down and more drunk drivers are on the road (between 9:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.);
- Avoid traveling around the holidays – especially at night – as holidays like Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, and New Year’s Eve/Day tend to see an increase in the incidence rate of drunk driving;
- Remain alert to drivers that exhibit signs of intoxication – swerving between lanes, unexplained acceleration and deceleration, and/or sudden stops or turns – and keep a safe distance between yourself and these drivers. Consider having a passenger call law enforcement to report the driver.
If you are injured or a loved one is killed in a drunk driving accident, a Los Angeles drunk driving accident lawyer can provide you with direction and assist you in understanding how to obtain compensation for your injuries and expenses.