Each year hundreds, even thousands of California drivers choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence, and in many cases that choice can be deadly. But according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of deaths caused by drivers under the influence in California is dropping. " Anytime we can reduce the number of fatalities that are happening from something completely preventable is great", said Chico CHP Officer Justin Maxey.
791 people were killed in DUI crashes on California roadways in 2010, that's down from 950 in 2009. The NHTSA says that represents the lowest level ever in California, and signifies the largest single yearly drop in DUI deaths in the past 14 years. While the lower number is good news, law enforcement agencies say even one death is too many. " The DUI is a choice, people choose to do that, they know they're not supposed to do it, however people choose to do it anyway", said Maxey.
A boost in federal funds is partly responsible for the drop in deaths. The Office of Traffic Safety allocated 16.8 million dollars in 2010 to law enforcement agencies, to conduct more than 2,500 California DUI checkpoints, up from the 11.7 million dollars that was granted in 2009. Another contributing factor is the countywide avoid DUI task force operations. " We've reduced the amount of people that are out there driving while they're impaired, which makes it a lot safer for the community in general", said Redding Police PIO Monty Hight.
And while the deaths are lower, arrests for DUI's are on the rise. " Anytime you can get a DUI driver off the road before the crash, who knows how many lives are being saved", explained Maxey.