SAN DIEGO — With only two months left in the year, the number of fatal DUI collisions is on track to remain around the all-time high in San Diego County, according to District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office.
So far in 2023, 25 people have been killed in crashes where one of the drivers was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Meanwhile, prosecutors have filed 4,635 DUI cases, including 253 that were solely drug-related and 219 where the driver was impaired by both alcohol and drugs.
This comes two years after the county saw its worst year for DUI fatalities on its roadways with more than 39 deaths caused by collisions where impaired driving played a factor.
In 2022, there was a slight dip in the number of people killed in DUI crashes to 33, according to the DA — a number that equals the previous county record for fatalities in a year, which was set back in 2020.
The DA’s office filed 5,682 DUI cases last year, according to prosecutors, including 370 drug-specific cases and 151 cases where both drugs and alcohol were present in the driver’s system.
“The increase over the last few years of people in our community dying at the hands of impaired drivers is disturbing,” Stephan said in a press release on Thursday, announcing a $810,000 state grant awarded to her office to prevent and prosecute DUI-related cases.
It will be the tenth year in a row that the county has received the grant, which comes from the California Office of Traffic Safety, to help fund the DA’s DUI Homicide Unit.
According to Stephan, the special prosecutorial unit helps streamline often complex DUI cases by “creating expertise within the DA’s office” and uniformity in sentencing between the four courthouses for adults.
Since its founding in 2014, the DA says that the unit has prosecuted nearly 225 cases relating to DUI fatalities. Over the years, the unit has received more than $4.5 million from the Office of Traffic Safety, helping provide:
- Training for select prosecutors to become experts in DUI-drug cases.
- Training for prosecutors and investigators through California’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Program as well as San Diego County specific training.
- Quarterly regional meetings with law enforcement partners to improve DUI investigations and prosecutions.
“We have a specialized team of prosecutors and investigators who hold offenders accountable and work to deter impaired driving,” Stephan added.
Heading into the holiday season, the DA’s office encourages San Diegans to make responsible choices when consuming alcohol or drugs, including using ride-sharing services and stopping loved ones from getting behind the wheel if they are impaired.