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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego County has averaged one fatal DUI crash per week over the last five months even though there are fewer drivers on the road due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That pace is putting the county on target to exceed its worst year for such fatalities, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.

Though non-injury DUI cases are down more than 30%, fatal crashes are up 33% with 24 deaths so far this year, compared to 18 at the same time last year, according to the DA’s Office. Blood-alcohol levels are also higher than last year’s average.

This year’s trend is expected to surpass the county’s worst year for fatal DUI crashes — 2017, when 25 people were killed.

As part of local efforts to combat serious DUI offenses and prosecute such cases, the District Attorney’s Office has received a $426,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

The DA’s Office says the grant will support its DUI Homicide Unit in its prosecutions and investigations. Funding will also go toward providing training for prosecutors and investigators through California’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Program, and hosting quarterly regional meetings with law enforcement partners to improve DUI investigations and prosecutions.

“This grant will allow our DUI Homicide Unit to continue its critical public safety work,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Even with stay-at-home orders because of the pandemic and many bars being closed, we are still on the brink of topping the highest number of deadly DUI crashes we have had in a single year.

“Today’s drivers know the risks and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, yet they persist,” she said. “Prosecuting and investigating these important cases require a specialized team of prosecutors and investigators to be able to hold offenders accountable and deter this deadly behavior.”