News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

Check out the magazine:

Magazine archives

Driving Under the Influence in Marin

Driving under the influence is a persistent and prevalent problem all over the country.

According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, 32 people are lost every day due to driving under the influence, amounting to over 11,000 people per year. In California, 30 percent of all traffic fatalities were due to alcohol-related car accidents, totaling to more than 1,000 fatalities in 2022. 

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a persistent and prevalent problem all over the country, including in Mill Valley, where there were an average of 38 DUI arrests from 2012 to 2022, according to the Mill Valley Police Department’s public crime report.

DUIs occur when a driver is suspected of having ingested alcohol or other illegal substances before, or while, operating a vehicle.

“When someone is believed to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they are asked to exit their vehicle,” Mill Valley detective John Lovos said. “They are then asked to perform a series of Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) to help determine their level of intoxication. If they are unable to complete the tests or complete them in a satisfactory manner, they are then placed under arrest for DUI.” 

When arrested, a person can choose between a blood or breath sample, in agreement with their California driver’s license agreement, Lovos continued.

“After the subject has provided a breath or blood sample, they are then booked at the Marin County Jail or Marin Juvenile Hall,” Lovos said.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reported that it is illegal to drive with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of: 0.08 percent or higher for people over 21 years old, 0.01 percent or higher for people under 21 years old, and 0.01 percent or higher at any age if a person is on DUI probation.

According to the Mill Valley Police Department’s (MVPD) official website, in 2022 there were 23 drunk driving arrests in Mill Valley alone. One of those arrests was a local 17-year-old boy arrested for a DUI in August 2022. Since then, his life and perspective on drinking and driving have completely changed.

“[Driving under the influence] is really not a good idea,” he said, asking to remain anonymous due to personal reasons. “Whenever my friends talk or think about it I’m like, ‘Just don’t do it.’ It’s not worth it; you can get a ride another way. I advise against it.”

He said when he stepped into his car, he didn’t realize that it would quickly turn into the worst day of his life. While driving, he was involved in a minor car accident while under the influence. Although no one was injured, the front right side of his car hit a chain link fence, resulting in damage to his car and the surrounding areas. 

“I was at my house with two to three friends and I had taken a couple of shots of vodka and beers,” he said. “After a few hours, I began to sober up and then met up with friends. I had another Bud Light beer and me and one other friend decided we wanted to go do something fun. We decided to do doughnuts in my car in a field near Edna Maguire Elementary School. After we had done a few doughnuts, my friend told me to countersteer.

He said he did originally think it was a bad idea and wasn’t sure if he should,  but proceeded.

“I did about 75 percent of a doughnut then crashed into a fence, then left the field. As we were getting out we heard someone shout, ‘The cops are on their way,’ so we decided to leave.”

They were then pulled over because their car matched the description of the one spotted at the scene.

“The cops asked me to step out of the car and I had to do the field sobriety test,” he said  “They breathalyzed me and I had a 0.06 BAC. We got to the police station and I had had a temporary driver’s license for one month, which was then taken away. I am currently on informal probation for six months.”

His views changed drastically after that day. He always knew that drinking and driving was not a good idea, but it became a lot more clear after their incident.

“[Drinking and driving] is very serious because it’s something that a lot of people do. People think they won’t get caught and have this mindset that I once had of being invincible, when you’re obviously not,” he said.

Other students and people echoed this idea of teenagers not believing that they would get caught driving under the influence.

“Parents are definitely strongly opposed to driving under the influence, but with teenagers it can be a different story. I’d say most are against drunk driving, but there are certainly some people who think it’s perfectly fine and safe, and do it a lot,” Tamalpais High School senior Sophie Safrit said.

The belief may exist among teenagers that there are still many ways to drive under the influence without being caught. That’s why Tam’s Wellness Center’s outreach specialist Sophia Kauffman believes proper awareness of the impact of driving under the influence is one of the most productive preventative methods.

In Kauffman’s experience, some students are unaware that a DUI not only includes alcohol, but any illegal substance that may be in your system while on the road.

“People tend to think cannabis is safer or not as bad to consume before driving. They get surprised when I tell them it’s still dangerous and you shouldn’t be driving under any substance,” Kauffman said.

Many people also aren’t aware of how prevalent the issue is, and when not talked about, the topic of driving under the influence can easily be swept under the rug, as stated by Criminal Defense Lawyer Carolyn Emison.

“I think a lot of parents have been under the impression that teens here don’t drink or smoke and drive since they can Uber. Parents just assume their kids won’t do it, or they won’t get in cars with kids that are doing it. But that assumption is false. The reality is that it’s happening here and it’s prevalent,” Emison said.

Another way to prevent drinking and driving is to plan alternative transportation ahead of time if aware there will be alcohol consumption or other substance use.

“As a parent, I have asked my child to not drink and drive,” the parent of the 17-year-old convicted drunk driver said. “Preferably, not to drink. If there is drinking, there is certainly no driving, and no getting into a car with anyone else who has been drinking. Parents need to offer safe alternatives and I have offered that I will pick my kid up if needed, or provide an Uber or Lyft.” 

Uber is a service and ride-hailing company that started in San Francisco in 2009. It is a reliable and safe transportation method that can save lives. 

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research these online sharing apps are truly making an impact. “Overall, our results imply that ridesharing has decreased US alcohol-related traffic fatalities by 6.1% and reduced total US traffic fatalities by 4.0%,” 

Researchers Michael Anderon and Lucas Davis from the University of California, Berkeley, credited Uber rides with having saved over 200 lives from alcohol-related fatalities. They used statistics from the number of Uber rides at certain times of the day, as well as averages of how many people would be consuming alcohol or other drugs during those times.

With many different ways to combat this issue, the hope in Marin County is that driving under the influence, especially among teenagers, decreases drastically in the years to come.

“There are a lot of drunk drivers on any given night but it’s too risky for parents not to be making sure. Forget just asking if your child is drinking and driving. Check. And make the consequences major,” Emison said. “We can’t keep our heads in the sand as a community on this issue. It’s just too dangerous.”

There are many other alternatives to drinking and driving and it’s important to plan ahead of time and communicate with others about transportation, drinking and driving should never be an option. 

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All The Tam News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *