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Oct 24, 2011

As the holiday season arrives, the smell of fresh baked goods and newly trimmed pine trees fill the air just as California's roadways fill with packed cars going to and from holiday gatherings. The California Department of Motor Vehicles encourages motorists to practice safe driving especially during this season of celebration, and reminds them of the consequences of driving under the influence.

In 2009, there were 26,058 alcohol-involved injuries in California.  There were 1,263 fatal traffic collisions in California as a result of alcohol or other drugs, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.  These injuries and deaths could have been easily prevented if the driver of the vehicle would have passed their keys on to a designated driver. 

Under California law, any driver in the state must consent to a breath, blood or under certain circumstances, a urine test, if you are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. If you are under 21 and get pulled over, it is illegal to test over a 0.01 percent blood alcohol (BAC) level. If your BAC level is over the limit, you are subject to having your license revoked. You will be issued a temporary license for 30 days maximum and have an order of suspension for one year. After the proper paperwork has been processed, it will be determined whether to release you from the custody of the police, turn you over to juvenile authorities, or contact your parents or guardians. If you are 21 or older and convicted of driving while under the influence of either alcohol, drugs or both, and you have an excessive BAC level (higher than 0.08 percent), you may be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail and pay fines and penalty assessments up to $5,000 the first time you are convicted. Your vehicle may also be impounded, and would then be subject to storage fees.

If you wish to apply for a restricted license after being convicted of a DUI, you must complete a DUI program, file a California Insurance Proof Certificate, and pay all fees incurred. The restricted license will allow you to drive to and from work and the DUI program only.  If the court decides that you are a risk to others on the road, your request for a restricted license can be denied. The consequences of driving under the influence can follow you for years on job applications, credit applications and be an emotional burden for you and your family.

A DUI is considered a two-point violation, which will be reflected on your driving record for 10 years. If you receive a total of four points in a 12 month period, your license will be revoked, so take extra caution if you already have existing points on your driving record. Be responsible designate a sober driver ahead of time if you plan on consuming alcoholic beverages.  The Designated Driver Program is an anti-DUI effort endorsed by the DMV that encourages one individual in your group to abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages during an outing, so they can be responsible for transporting themselves, and the rest of their friends, home safely.

When you and your friends establish a designated sober driver, everyone can relax, have fun, and know that they've all done their part to ensure a safe trip home. If a designated sober driver is not available, call a taxi.  The cost of a taxi ride is far less than the costs associated with a DUI conviction.  Not only are you saving yourself the substantial cost of a DUI but you are potentially saving lives by planning ahead and making smart choices. 

To participate as a designated driver, an individual must:

  • Possess a valid driver license
  • Be part of a group of two or more persons and verbally identify himself or herself as the designated driver to the server
  • Identify himself or herself to the group of friends as the designated sober driver for the evening
  • Abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages for the duration of the outing
  • Not be an otherwise impaired driver

The California Department of Motor Vehicles urges you to please consider these facts as you gear up for the holiday season.  If you suspect someone is driving under the influence, please do not hesitate to call 911.  For more information on the Designated Driver Program, safe driving tips and the consequences of driving under the influence, please visit www.DMV.ca.gov.

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