Kern County reports an uptick in DUI fatalities compared to last year

Kern's Sober Reality

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Drunken driving, it’s an issue that we take very seriously here at TV-17, we call the ongoing problem ‘Kerns Sober Reality’. The crime is now spiking in Kern County as well as in 6 other counties this holiday season.

“In 2021, I filed twice as many DUI fatalities cases as I did in 2020,” said Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer.

Seven county district attorneys shared the same concern during a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon. The prosecutors reflected on 2021 and noticed that the number of criminal convictions for driving under the influence nearly doubled since last year in their respective counties.

Some blame the pandemic, others lenient state laws, but they all agree everyone shares responsibility in preventing this heinous crime.

Zimmer mentioned that Kern County lost at least 26 people at the hands of impaired drivers this year alone.

During Christmas 2020, California Highway Patrol (CHP) reported 38 deaths as a result of impaired drivers in Bakersfield and 573 DUI arrests.

According to an American Addiction Centers study, two in three Californians plan to stay overnight with family this Christmas in order to avoid falling victim to impaired drivers.

Rhonda Campbell, a victim’s services specialist with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), knows the emotions that her clients go through after losing her 12-year-old sister to a drunk driver 41 years ago.

“I always make sure I use the word crime,” said Campbell.  “Sometimes in the mainstream, DUI is sometimes not considered a crime, but it is an ultimate crime.”

A crime that Kern County’s top prosecutor believes is taken too lightly in California.

“As I stood there with the two parents, I reassured them that we would do everything possible to seek justice in the death of their children,” said Zimmer. [The father] said what difference does it make; the governor will just let the killer loose anyway.”

The most recent DUI-related crime in Bakersfield took the lives of siblings, JJ Malone and Caylee Brown. The woman in the question of the crime had a previous criminal history and is due back in court on January 4.

CHP will be enforcing the law during the holidays, they also advise:

  • If you are the designated driver that you fully commit to sobriety.
  • Consider keeping the number to a cab company or downloading a ridesharing app like Uber or Lyft.
  • If you see a friend is too intoxicated to get behind the wheel, take the keys from them.

Advocates, including MADD and prosecutors, present agreed that enforcing and protecting others from drunk driving is everyone’s responsibility.

“I want to assure the public that the Kern County DA’s office is continuing to aggressively prosecute,” said Zimmer.  “I do want to call upon the public to please, please refrain from driving under the influence of alcohol, under the influence of marijuana, and under the influence of drugs.”

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