The California counties with the most drunk driving deaths have been revealed, as survivors and advocates plead for motorists to sober up before getting behind the wheel.
Data taken from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System shows the Golden State counties with the most fatal alcohol-related accidents in 2022.
Topping the list is Los Angeles County, which saw 121 drunk driving fatalities that year – by far the highest number of deaths in the state.
This grim reality was brought to light amid the ongoing trial of Rebecca Grossman, who allegedly sped through a Westlake Village crosswalk in September 2020, killing two young brothers.
Though the socialite was not charged with driving under the influence, prosecutors say the 60-year-old was impaired. She denies murder.
Los Angeles County recorded the highest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities – 121 – in 2022, according to data from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System
Socialite Rebecca Grossman is believed to have been under the influence when she plowed through a crosswalk, allegedly killing two young brothers
The 60-year-old was not charged with driving under the influence, but a test revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent – California’s legal limit (pictured: Grossman’s Mercedes SUV moments after the crash)
An on-site breathalyzer test revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.076 percent, just below the state’s legal limit of 0.08.
However, that number jumped to 0.08 percent in a blood sample – which also detected Valium – three hours after the crash.
Grossman was travelling at ‘an insane, crazy speed’ later revealed to be 72 miles per hour, according to Nancy Iskander, whose 11-year-old and 8-year-old sons lost their lives in the accident.
Iskander testified last month that the family was crossing a Westlake Village street when two vehicles came speeding at them.
The grieving mother told jurors that she ducked out of the way of the first car with her youngest son and believes her other boys were struck by Grossman’s car.
‘Try to understand. I’m a mother. A car just ran over your two kids. Do you think – I know that she killed them. I love them the most. I know you’re a parent. You have kids. So please understand.’
The soaring number of DUI deaths has seen advocates push to increase awareness, believing that combatting the issue starts with education.
Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE), an LA-based advocacy group, argues that the area has likely seen a substantial increase in hit-and-runs felonies since 2020 – 96 percent – due to the use of alcohol and drugs.
In a January 24 report titled ‘Traffic Violence in Los Angeles,’ the group lays out statistics, pointing to a significant increase in DUI fatalities in the city alone since 2021.
Nancy Iskander lost her 11-year-old and 8-year-old sons in the accident. Grossman’s defense attorney tried to argue that the first car struck the children, but Iskander insisted that the socialite was to blame
Advocacy group Streets Are For Everyone argues that the increase in hit-and-runs felonies since 2020 is due to the use of alcohol and drugs
The number of DUI fatalities in the City of Angels alone has spiked since 2021, the group says
Damian Kevitt, a hit-and-run survivor and founder of the advocacy group Streets Are For Everyone, has declared ‘a state of anarchy’ on roads in Los Angeles County
The issue is personal for the group’s executive director, Damian Kevitt, who lost his leg in a hit-and-run accident.
‘It is literally, to a degree, on our roads, a state of anarchy,’ Kevitt told DailyMail.com. ‘If you want to see what it would be like to drive in the wild, Wild West, we’ve got it on the streets of Los Angeles. There’s just almost no enforcement of the laws.
‘You can only do so much engineering. You can’t engineer a road out of someone driving drunk or driving on drugs or deciding that they don’t care about the infrastructure.’
While Los Angeles claims the top spot for number of deaths by a far shot, data from other counties is just as grim. In San Bernardino County, 101 alcohol-related traffic deaths were recorded in 2022.
Just last month, 26-year-old Roberto Alvarez Rodriguez was arrested for a suspected DUI hit-and-run crash near the city of Redlands.
Rodriguez was thought to be under the influence of alcohol when he ran a red light and was hit by a semi truck in November. As two victims lay dying and another critically injured in the back of his Kia, he allegedly ran off.
One of the women who ultimately succumbed to her injuries was identified as 38-year-old Valerie Ibarra. The other woman’s identity has not been released.
Although the case is pending, jail logs show the 26-year-old was booked on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injuries.
And the number of drunk driving deaths may be even higher than reported. As police can only list one primary collision factor in their documentation of a crash, this means pieces of the full picture may be missing.
‘You’ve got this skewed data where you’re not actually understanding the full picture,’ Kevitt explained.
‘For example, we know that speeding is the primary collision factor. And when you have a hit and run, and you have a person who’s going at ungodly speeds and then they run, they are going to immediately report it as speeding.
‘So it’s up to the whim of the reporting officer what the primary collision factor is, and if the person is found later to have been driving under the influence, it doesn’t necessarily get reported.’
In San Bernadino County, 101 fatal drunk driving accidents were recorded in 2022
In nearby Riverside County, 90 alcohol-related traffic deaths were reported that year
In nearby Riverside County, where 90 alcohol-related traffic deaths were reported in 2022, a family was forced to watch their six-year-old son become another statistic.
In May, Moses Sanchez-Rodriguez spoke to NBC 7 San Diego from a wheelchair as he and his wife spent their final hours with their firstborn son, Ian.
The six-year-old was left brain dead after an accident involving a suspected drunk driver.
‘The physical pain is nothing compared to the emotional pain that we’ve been going through right now,’ the heartbroken father said.
‘It’s a nightmare I keep hoping I’m just going to wake up from, you know – it’s awful.’
The family were on their way back from visiting family members in Tijuana when they hit a driver who had crashed into a wall.
That driver, Isaiah Orona, was accused of making an unsafe turn and losing control, resulting in a three-car pileup.
Ian, his parents and his younger brother were all taken to the hospital, but Ian remained on life support.
He suffered a critical brain laceration and stroke in the accident and underwent emergency surgery, but doctors were unable to control the brain hemorrhage.
The boy’s parents set up a GoFundMe campaign titled ‘Love Like Ian’ as they grappled with the decision to take their eldest son off life support. He was laid to rest on June 4.
‘Reality has sank in that we will no longer see Ian walk though the door, hear his giggles or enjoy all the things he loved, like watching sports with Dad or singing and dancing to his favorite music,’ the family wrote.
‘The fact that we will no longer get to see milestones breaks our hearts everyday with every passing minute.’
Ian Sanchez, 6, was returning from a trip with his family when they hit a drunk driver who had crashed into a wall
The little boy was put on life support and declared brain dead. He was laid to rest in June
Neighboring San Diego County saw 63 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2022, but even more sobering than the statistics is the story of a victim who had a near brush with death – and survived.
Raul Campillo, a San Diego City councilmember representing District 7, was shopping for gifts with his wife and two-month-old son a few days before Christmas when an impaired driver plowed into their vehicle.
‘As we entered the Interstate 8 freeway in La Mesa, the other driver completely failed to turn off the freeway and collided with us, directly on our driver’s side back wheel, somewhere at or near above 65 miles per hour,’ Campillo told FOX5 San Diego.
The driver sped away, only to be arrested by California Highway Patrol. She was later charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.
‘We sat there with our side airbag exploded into our faces, the noise was deafening, but the scream of our baby is the sound that we will hear more than anything into the future,’ Campillo said.
The harrowing experience prompted Campillo to launch a campaign about New Year’s Eve safety.
On December 29, the former city prosecutor called a press conference to tell his story in hopes of dissuading people from getting behind the wheel after drinking.
‘This is a plea from a father who was nearly killed,’ Campillo said. ‘It is never safe to drink and drive.’
While the councilmember handled misdemeanor DUI cases as a prosecutor, surviving one truly drove the issue home.
‘Friends and family have to stand up. Law enforcement is after the fact,’ he said.
San Diego City councilmember Raul Campillo narrowly survived after a drunk driver plowed into his car while he was Christmas shopping with his wife and two-month-old son
Six cities in California will be the first to install speed cameras under AB 645, a bill that went into effect last month, in an effort seen as a step towards lowering the number of traffic deaths
Other counties seeing substantial numbers of deaths are Orange and San Joaquin, both at 53; Sacramento, at 54; Kern, at 52; Fresno, at 47; and Ventura, at 29.
State leaders have taken steps to prevent crashes with a central focus on reducing speed.
On October 13, Governor Gavin Newsom approved AB 645, a bill authorizing three Los Angeles County cities – Glendale, Long Beach and the City of Angels itself – as well as San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose to install cameras in school zones and streets with known speeding problems.
‘Theoretically, wherever it’s used will be making roads significantly safer, and that’s important,’ Kevitt said.
‘What we don’t know is because there’s so few cameras allowed in the pilot, how much of it will make a difference in terms of the number of fatalities, the volume of fatalities that are happening in Los Angeles.’
The cameras will ticket drivers exceeding the posted speed limit by 11 miles per hour.
A first offense will come with a warning, while a second offense will cost anywhere between $50 and $500 – but it won’t add points against a driver’s record. Low-income drivers caught speeding a second time will only pay a $25 fine.
While the new law went into effect on January 1, the cameras are not expected to be in place until next summer. The program is authorized through 2032.
The best solution to combat the rising number of traffic fatalities is still up for debate, but in Kevitt’s eyes, this starts with a heavier police presence on the streets.
‘We’re very concerned about the lack of traffic enforcement,’ Kevitt said. ‘At the same time, we’re also very concerned about traffic enforcement that is historically being done in ways that are inequitable and racially biased.’
Kevitt works day to day with victims of traffic violence through his organization’s support program.
‘I’m not interested in having a bunch of over-policing,’ the advocate said. ‘But I’m not interested in just watching people die, and family members having to bury them.
‘We have to pick up the pieces because we’re the ones that are out there with our support service, helping them to get back on their feet. It’s overwhelming, the number of people.’