New CHP Campaign to Fight Impaired Driving

Throughout the year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration focuses much of their attention on the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign. However, their efforts do not end there. They also provide various grants to agencies that offer their support to the campaign. The California Office of Traffic Safety was one of the lucky few to receive such a grant.

Using this money, the OTS and the California Highway Patrol are partnering up to start a new campaign aimed at reducing the number of impaired driving related crashes. They will do so by increasing enforcement and advocating more educational opportunities about traffic safety. According to CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley, “reducing impaired driving through education and enforcement remains a high priority for the CHP.”

This joint effort, known as the California Impaired Driving Reduction (CIDR) campaign, started on October 1, 2019, and is scheduled to continue through September 30, 2020.

The campaign will help to fund and conduct traffic safety classes, with the aim of making sure the public is better educated about the risks of impaired driving. It will also fund additional DUI patrols and checkpoints. The hope is that, by educating the public about the risks, they will be better able to make smart decisions about drinking and driving – that is, to say no.

The official CHP press release stated, “The CHP continues to encourage the public to have a plan before getting on the road. In addition to alcohol, driving under the influence of cannabis, medications, and/or drugs is illegal and dangerous. Always designate a sober driver, take public transportation, or ride-share. There is always a better option than getting behind the wheel while impaired.

Also, the CHP would like to remind the public to call 9-1-1 if they suspect that someone is driving while drunk. The dispatcher will ask about a location, direction of travel, and a description of the vehicle – so be prepared.

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Gun Rights and DUI Collide

Recent years have seen an increased focus on gun rights in the news as gun violence appears to have increased in frequency. In light of this, California is considering a new bill – Senate Bill 55 – which would revoke a person’s right to own a gun for 10 years if they have been convicted of two or three alcohol-related misdemeanors within the past three years. The number of convictions would be dependent on the type of offense with which the person was being charged.

Part of the push for this bill comes from a recent study about DUIs. Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the report found that there may be some correlation between DUI and gun ownership. Out of about 80,000 legal gun purchasers in California, those with prior convictions of DUI were 2.5 times more likely than those with no DUI conviction to be arrested on suspicion of a more serious crime such as murder and robbery. When the convictions were expanded to include slightly less violent crimes such as harassment, the study found that they were three times more likely to have been arrested.

Back in 2013, then-Governor Jerry Brown had vetoed a similar bill, stating that he was “not persuaded that it is necessary to bar gun ownership on the basis of crimes that are non-felonies, non-violent, and do not involve misuse of a firearm.” The JAMA study offers the bill supporters a potential connection between gun ownership and history of drunk driving convictions.

However, the study does not substantiate that there is a direct link between alcohol use and gun violence. Rather than suggesting that alcohol is the culprit behind gun violence, the study suggests that many people “who engage in risky behavior involving alcohol will also engage in the kinds of risky behavior that endanger other people’ lives.” Especially when it comes to heavy drinking and gun access, impaired judgment can make it more likely for someone to act out.

Still, it is important that legislators and commenters understand that they are walking a very thin line. Prior DUI convictions seem to be a better predictor of future violence when compared with non-alcohol related misdemeanors. Recall the movie “Minority Report,” where law enforcement officers arrested people before they actually committed an offense. If you’ve seen the film, think about how the protagonist spent so much time trying to change the predicted outcome.

Is it worth putting a limit on human rights (remember there is a “right to bear arms”) in order to proactively prevent violent acts? Will we eventually come up with a formula that accurately predicts who is more likely to commit more violent acts? It’ll certainly be a tough time figuring that out.

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Homeless Woman Killed in her Sleep by Drunk Driver

Early Monday morning, a black Dodge Challenger crashed into a white Mazda SUV and a black Toyota Prius in Santa Rosa, California. The accident took place around 3 a.m. near the intersection at Hoen Avenue and Cypress Way. Unfortunately, a homeless woman and her dog were killed in the three-car collision.

Police suspect that the driver had been speeding when he hit into a telephone pole and then into the Mazda, pushing it into the front yard of a house nearby. Then, the driver crashed into a Prius parked a bit farther down from the car.

A female passenger, later identified as Kellie Nora Michelle of Santa Rose, and her dog had been in the Mazda at the time of the accident. It is assumed that they were living out of her car for some time and had been sleeping when the Challenger hit into it. They were reported dead at the scene. The Prius was luckily unoccupied.

The driver of the Challenger was Angel Ivan Martinez of Santa Rosa and, according to police reports, he showed signs of intoxication. Investigators determined that Martinez had been under the influence during the incident. After being treated for minor injuries, he was arrested for vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence and for DUI as well.

The vehicles were completely totaled and a power line got hit, causing some areas to lose power. As a result, over 500 people were affected by the outage.

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DUI Suspect Steals CHP Car in Attempt to Avoid Arrest

Alcohol can make people do some very odd things. Sometimes it can completely lower your barriers and make you do things that aren’t safe or wise to do – like drinking and driving.

Last week Wednesday, police went on a wild chase down the 14 Freeway after a careless DUI driver took off at high speeds down the road. Things kicked off around 5pm when officers attempted to pull over the suspected DUI driver, but the man in the Kia Optima refused to slow down. After a bit of chase, the pursuit was temporarily canceled for safety reasons.

However, officers re-initiated the pursuit and followed the man through Lancaster into Kern Country. The man eventually abandoned his vehicle and hijacked a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck that he found somewhere along the way. Then, he switched directions and drove off road into the desert. During this stretch of the chase, the intoxicated man repeatedly hit into the cars of the deputies who chased him.

At this point, CHP officers took over the chase.

The fleeing suspect eventually crashed the stolen vehicle and bolted. Before he took off, he was seen hugging a woman who also got out of the truck. Officers later found her hiding in the desert and promptly took her into custody.

The man found an unoccupied CHP vehicle soon after and continued on with his getaway. In his haste, he veered off onto a dirt road and various other paths while the patrol car emergency lights blared.

In the end, officers cornered the driver and forced him to surrender.

The DUI suspect could possibly be facing charges such as theft of a police car and assaulting a deputy.

I can’t imagine how much this guy must have drunk to get this point. No matter the amount, people must be careful of their decisions and try to make reasonable choices. And driving drunk and then commandeering a police vehicle is definitely not the reasonable choice.

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San Clemente Woman on Trial for DUI and Second-Degree Murder

A woman from San Clemente was suspected of drunk driving in Huntington Beach on March 30, 2018, resulting in the death of three people. While reportedly under the influence, Bani Marcela Duarte, 29, crashed her car into a stopped vehicle along Pacific Coast Highway. Three of the four young teens inside the other car died from the impact.

Witnesses stated that Duarte first hit a curb and then continued on driving down the road. While there was no major damage to the car, it appeared that she was intoxicated and not properly able to operate her vehicle. Witnesses reported her to the police and proceeded to follow her from a safe distance. Not too long after, Duarte approached a red light and crashed into a stopped Toyota Corolla at close to a speed of 80mph.

Her trial started on September 25th, and she is being charged with three counts of second-degree murder. In addition, the court charged her with a felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol with an enhancement for causing great bodily injury.

In Duarte’s defense, her attorney Justin Glenn started off with conceding that Duarte had been under the influence during the PCH incident. However, he argued that she should not be charged with murder. Prosecutors often use the Watson advisement as reason to charge a defendant with second-degree murder rather than manslaughter. It serves as a formal warning to DUI offenders regarding drinking and driving – telling them that the next time it happens, they might be charged with murder. In Duarte’s case, Glenn claimed that she was never given the Watson advisement at the time of her 2016 DUI arrest.

Glenn hopes to at least take the murder charge off the table with the trial.

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