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Crime Prevention: Traffic Safety Tip for July


The purpose of this Drunk Driving Circular is to provide information to Department personnel and community members that will enhance their knowledge and awareness of traffic enforcement and safety issues. The information in this circular can be used for crime prevention meetings, community presentations, enforcement efforts, or in any other forum deemed appropriate.


Your Safety and the Safety of Others is at Stake

It is that time of year when high school students are preparing to graduate and will soon be entering the mainstream of society. When celebrating accomplishments and achievements, it is important not to drink and drive. Many people do not realize that alcohol is a drug. Although it can be purchased legally if you are 21 years of age or older, alcohol, when consumed, impairs a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. As we enter the summer months, remember you can make the highways safer by avoiding drinking and driving.

Did You Know:

ALCOHOL AFFECTS YOUR JUDGEMENT: Alcohol is a drug which acts like an anesthetic. When consumed, alcohol passes directly through the wall of the stomach into the bloodstream where it will be distributed throughout the body. Any amount of alcohol will affect a person’s ability to drive to some degree.

ALCOHOL WILL SLOW YOUR REACTION TIME: Drinking alcohol slows reflexes and hinders coordination. Driving is a complex task, which requires the operator to perform several tasks at one time. Drivers who cannot react in time become a danger to themselves and to the motoring public.

ALCOHOL WILL AFFECT YOUR CONCENTRATION: Safe driving requires the driver to divide attention among various tasks. These include steering, signaling, operating the accelerator or the brake, just to mention a few. An impaired driver tends to concentrate on the most important or critical parts of driving and disregards less important parts of driving. This increases the likelihood of being involving in a traffic collision.

ALCOHOL CAN AFFECT YOUR VISION: A driver must have good vision when operating a motor vehicle. This includes having good side vision as well as being able to see while driving at night. When alcohol is consumed, it can make it difficult to see vehicles approaching from either the right or left, or it can cause blurry vision.

ALCOHOL-RELATED CRASHES KILL MORE YOUNG PEOPLE THAN ANY OTHER CAUSE: Driving gives most teenagers the feeling of freedom and independence. During this time in their lives, many will have their first encounter with alcohol or drugs. Mixing alcohol and drugs with driving increases the risk of being involved in a traffic collision and increases the risk of being seriously injured or killed.


Based on U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there were 41,821 persons killed in traffic collisions in 2000. Unfortunately, due to the size and number of motor vehicles in our state, California led the nation with 3,348 traffic deaths. In 2001, there were 36 motorists who lost their lives in a DUI-related collision in the City of Los Angeles.

California Vehicle Code Laws on Driving-Under-the-Influence of Alcohol

Section 23136 of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) states it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 years who has a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 percent or greater, as measured by a preliminary alcohol screening device, to drive a vehicle. This is called the Zero Tolerance Law and it provides the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with a means to penalize minors (one to three-year suspension or revocation of a driver’s license) who choose to drink and drive but are not considered under the influence. It also gives law enforcement the authority to take a minor’s driver’s license and return it to DMV.

Section 23140 CVC states it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 years who has a BAC of 0.05 percent or more to operate a motor vehicle. Anyone arrested for this offense will have his or her driver’s license suspended for at least one year. If he or she does not have a driver’s license, the offender must wait an additional year before one will be issued.

Section 23152 CVC states it unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle. Section 23152 CVC further states it is unlawful for a driver of a vehicle to have a BAC of 0.08 percent, and a driver of a commercial vehicle to have a BAC of 0.04 percent.

So, how many drinks does it take to reach a BAC to be legally under the influence?

There are several factors that contribute to a person’s level of impairment. A person’s body weight, the amount of food that has been consumed, how fast alcoholic beverages are consumed, and a person’s mood can all play a role. Also, the different types of alcoholic beverages consumed make a difference. Twelve ounces of beer has 5 percent alcohol, 5 ounces of table wine has 12 percent alcohol, and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor has 40 percent alcohol. All of these have about the same amount of pure alcohol, which is approximately 0.6 ounces.

Percent of Blood Alcohol Concentration within One Hour











































0 to .04

Zero Tolerance

.05 to .07

Under 21 years

.08 and above

Presumed intoxicated

As an example, a 120-pound individual who consumes two alcoholic beverages within a one-hour time span will likely register a BAC of approximately 0.08 percent. A 160-pound individual who consumes four alcoholic beverages within a one-hour time span will likely register a BAC of 0.12 percent. In both examples, the individuals would be above the legal limit of intoxication in California. These figures are to be used as a guide only. For some people, even one drink could be too many!

Department Programs Aimed at Reducing Alcohol in the Community

Minor Decoy Operation – The Department conducts minor decoy operations in public premises as a method of reducing the availability of alcoholic beverages to underage individuals at the retail level. Licensed Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) establishments are checked for legal compliance with Section 25658(a), (b), (c), Business and Professions Code. These sections prohibit the sales of alcohol to minors, the consumption of alcohol by minors in on-sale premises, and permitting a minor to consume alcohol in any on-sale premise by a licensee.

Shoulder Tap Operation – Studies conducted at major universities indicate that as much as

48 percent of underage individuals obtaining alcohol do so by soliciting adults outside ABC establishments. During a Shoulder Tap Operation, a minor decoy will tap a patron on the shoulder (hence the project name) or will ask the patron to purchase alcohol for them. If the adult agrees and purchases the alcohol, the individual is subsequently arrested. The program is aimed at educating the public that there is "zero tolerance" for providing alcohol to underage minors.

Standardized Training for Alcohol Retainer (STAR) – The STAR program is a proactive ABC training and education presentation developed by the Department. The STAR presentation has been specifically designed to provide both on and off-sale ABC retailers, and their employees, with up-to-date training regarding the rules and regulations governing the sale and service of alcoholic beverages. The program is designed to promote responsible alcohol beverage sales and service at the retail licensee level.

Enforcement, Educational and Community Programs Aimed at Reducing DUI

Saturation Patrols – Based on traffic collision statistics, the Department saturates areas where there have been high increases in DUI traffic collisions and arrests. In an effort to reduce DUI driving, saturated patrols maximize law enforcement resources by allowing coverage during specific time periods. Some patrols target all drivers, while others focus on underage drivers during such times as the holidays, prom and graduation season.

Sobriety DUI Checkpoints – The Department uses the highly publicized Sobriety DUI Checkpoints in efforts to educate the community about the dangers associated with drinking and driving. Sobriety DUI checkpoints are a highly effective educational campaign. The Department involves local news media, with newspaper, television and radio advertisements to get the message to the motoring public.

Safe and Sober Program – It is a well-established fact that DUI plays a major role in fatal traffic collisions involving youthful drivers. The Safe and Sober Program is presented by traffic safety officers at local high schools starting in April and concludes with the end of the school year. The purpose of the Safe and Sober Program is to decrease alcohol-related incidents at proms and graduations and hopefully throughout the entire summer months.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – This program was started in 1980 when a 13-year-old California girl was killed by a repeat drunk driver offender. Since that time, MADD has grown into a non-profit volunteer organization, which targets impaired driving, victim assistance and underage drinking issues. The Department is a strong supporter of MADD.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to drive after having just one drink?

No! Even small amounts of alcohol can impair a driver’s ability to safety operate a motor vehicle. Alcohol is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 years and it is illegal for a driver under the age of 21 years to have any measurable amount of alcohol in the blood.

If you are under the age of 21 years, weigh 140 pounds and consumed two beers, can you be arrested? (Refer to chart on page two.)

Yes! Based on the chart on page three, the person’s BAC would be a 0.06 percent. Remember, it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 years who has a BAC of 0.05 percent or more to operate a motor vehicle. A person can also have their driver’s license suspended for at least one year.

Does alcohol slow your brain activity?

Yes! Alcohol slows down your brain activity and it impairs important functions. It can affect your judgement, attention, coordination, vision and reaction time. Since alcohol and other drugs can impair judgement, a person should not be fooled by mistaken confidence.

What alternatives are available to you if you do plan to drink?

Remember, do not drink alcoholic beverages if you plan to drive. If you plan to drink, you can leave the car at home, give your keys to the designated driver, arrange to stay overnight, ask someone to drive you home, or you can call a taxi or take a bus.


It is the responsibility of all motorists to observe all traffic laws, and of every uniformed officer to enforce the laws, educate the public, and ensure the safe movement of pedestrians and vehicle traffic. The Police Department has developed the following DUI strategies:

  1. Discuss DUI laws and the Department’s enforcement strategy at neighborhood, business and Community Police Advisory Board meetings.
  2. Educate high school students on the importance of not drinking and driving.
  3. Educate the Hispanic community on DUI issues through the El Protector Azul program.
  4. Provide officers with roll call training on the Standardized Field Sobriety Test.
  5. Liaise with the news media to publicize consequences and alternatives to DUI.
  6. Conduct DUI Task Forces and Checkpoints.