With over 10 miles of sandy beach hugging the Pacific Ocean and a busy tourism trade, Southern California’s Huntington Beach has a reputation for being a party city. Along with that reputation comes some of the worst DUI statistics in Orange County and all of California. To combat this, the H.B. police department has come up with an innovative program to help patrons of the many downtown bars learn their alcohol limit and stay off the road when they’ve reached it.
In 2011 Huntington Beach was ranked number one in California for traffic accidents involving alcohol, in comparison with cities that are comparable in size. That year, 164 individuals were killed or injured in alcohol related car accidents. So far this year there have been nine fatal car accidents that can be attributed to alcohol.
In the .07 square miles from Orange Avenue to Pacific Coast Highway, there is an estimated 37 active alcohol licenses. This is a big draw for the residents of Huntington Beach as well as the thousands of tourists who flood the city for the great surf and volleyball tournaments. The DUI problem arises when it is time for these drinkers to head back home, or back to their hotels.
In December, Police Chief Robert Handy arrived in Huntington Beach from the Phoenix Police Department. He immediately began looking at the DUI problem in his new city and investigating alternative ways of addressing it. Traffic stops and frequent arrests were not working, but a program that had success in Scottsdale, Arizona might.
Know Your Limit is a program funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety. Officers go into downtown Huntington Beach bars and offer to give patrons a free Breathalyzer test. This shows the drinker just how much, or little, it really takes before they are above the legal limit of .08.
The reason behind this program is simple. Many drinkers simply do not understand how quickly they can become too impaired to drive. And since a person’s weight plays a part in how alcohol is processed, there is no better way to educate a drinker than to actually show them what their BAC is after just two or three drinks.
Many drinkers are still under the impression that different types of alcohol will make you drunk faster. The truth is, there is as much alcohol in a 12 oz beer on tap as there is in a shot of hard liquor. Drinking wine doesn’t help either, as only 5 oz of wine has the same effect.
Your personal limit depends on your weight. For example, at 120 lbs, you will be above the legal limit after your third drink, while it will take five drinks to reach that limit for an individual weighing 200 lbs. Don’t rely solely on this though, other factors can affect how quickly your body absorbs alcohol, such as if you are on medication or whether or not you have eaten recently.
By having your BAC checked while you are out drinking, you will be surprised at how quickly you are above the legal limit, and how long it takes after you finish drinking for your BAC to get back under .08%. The hope is that drinkers will take this under advisement and pay better attention to how much they drank before choosing to drive.
You might think that a handful of police officers walking into a crowded bar on Friday night would be a buzz kill, but the program is having the opposite effect. What the officers are finding is that drinkers are curious about learning their limit and getting the little “I know my limit” sticker. This has become a fantastic opportunity for law enforcement to interact with the cities drinking population in a non-threatening manner.
Scottsdale had begun the program in 2010, and in 2013 saw no DUI fatalities in the Arizona city. Huntington Beach police chief Handy is hoping to see similar results in his new city. This type of educating drinkers on the spot may be exactly what the city needs to curb its DUI problem.
Although the results are yet to be seen, the Know Your Limit campaign promises to be one of the more effective programs that Huntington Beach police have embarked on to combat DUI. Up until now, visitors of the downtown area were skeptical of the police, feeling that their only agenda was to arrest them. The Know Your Limit program offers an opportunity to educate the public instead, before they get behind the wheel.
This type of program is a welcome change to check points and arrests, and just may prove to be the push that Huntington Beach needs to get off of the top spot for DUI related traffic accidents.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Huntington Beach or anywhere in Orange County, speaking with a licensed professional that has experience assisting drunk driving defendants is in your best interest. Each drunk driving arrest is different, and no two offenders should receive the exact same penalty for their offenses. Call (888) 250-2865 today to obtain a free case evaluation from one of our experienced lawyers to help get you the answers you’re looking for.