Despite the progress we have made reducing DUI fatalities over the years, the pandemic seemed to change our course in 2019 and we are still experiencing a dramatic increase in DUI deaths in 2022.
On New Years Eve 2021, 13 people died in DUI/DUID crashes on California roadways, a number 4 times higher than 2020. As we enter the holiday season, there are 1,159 California families with an empty seat at the table as the result of the actions of an impaired driver. Ironically, the days around a major holiday, when many impaired drivers hit the road, such as Thanksgiving (and Black Friday) as well as New Years, are considered particularly dangerous.
Despite the progress we have made reducing DUI fatalities over the years, the pandemic seemed to change our course in 2019 and we are still experiencing a dramatic increase in DUI deaths in 2022. In 2020, 30% of all California traffic fatalities were related to drug and/or alcohol impairment.
When we talk about these needless deaths, we tend to talk about numbers, not people. We look at solutions, such as the need for increased enforcement on our roadways, and more effective laws to deter impaired drivers. However, arresting, and prosecuting repeat offenders does not change behaviors, you do. It is estimated that 14,240,000 Americans have an alcohol use disorder. About 4% receive treatment for it. These individuals often suffer from trauma, depression and other mental health issues, inter-generational substance abuse, anti-social thinking, defensiveness and often, little motivation to change their lifestyle.
As treatment professionals, you are faced with the enormous challenge of addressing these behaviors. Your training and the relationship you establish with these individuals can be the beginning of the recovery process. The insights you provide to your clients may result in lifetime changes. Your compassion may open the door to clients trusting you in making hard decisions. Your actions have a ripple effect on entire families and communities. What you do matters! It saves lives!
You have the ability to impact change in the lives of these individuals and make their last DUI, their last DUI. As we celebrate the holidays and look toward the coming year, I hope you recognize your amazing impact on our communities.
Thank you for what you do!
Mark Stodola Bio
As NHTSA’s Probation Fellow, Mark Stodola brings over 30 years of experience working in the field of court management and adult probation in Arizona. Mark worked at the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department for 18 years serving in several capacities including field supervisor and division director overseeing drug and alcohol treatment programs, problem solving courts and services for the mentally ill. Mark later became the Court Administrator of the Tempe Municipal Court where he served for eight years managing the day-to-day activities of the court including budget, case processing, program development (including the establishment of Arizona’s first municipal mental health court) and managing personnel. Most recently, Mark served as Program Services Manager in the Adult Probation Services Division of the Arizona Supreme Court where he had oversight of treatment programs for Arizona’s Adult Probation Departments. Mark received his undergraduate degree in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his master’s degree in Education from Northern Arizona University. Mark became a Graduate Fellow through the National Council of State Courts Institute of Court Management. In his spare time Mark serves on several boards, including the CADTP Certification Board and is actively involved in community activities with his wife, Susan.