The number of drunken driving fatalities across San Diego County has reached a level that has local officials calling this the "summer of shame."
Sensing a greater number of suspected DUI-involved deaths on San Diego roads and highways, NBC7 did its own research into summer fatalities and found five from June 1 to August 26.
An analysis from the San Diego County District Attorney's Office includes the month of May and that number is startling. Local law enforcement leaders plan to discuss the recent spike Tuesday.
Lance Rodgers lost a friend and his business partner Victor Leamon lost the love of his life when a suspected drunk driver hit and killed Rocio Leamon.
“I was shocked. How do you take a phone call like that at night? You can't even wrap your head around it,” Rodgers said.
While the spike in DUI related deaths is alarming it doesn't illustrate the devastation to families.
“Very hard to see somebody suffer like he's suffering with three boys to raise on his own. It's just an awful situation,” Rodgers said.
Police say 38-year-old Joshua Taylor was driving under the influence, when he hit and killed Leamon while she was crossing Navajo road in San Carlos.
The accident happened around 6 p.m. on August 13 and is one of more than a dozen pending cases since May.
“It's a horrible statistic to realize we are losing ground in what was so much in the focus of everybody's mind. Don't drink and drive,” Rodgers said.
The DA's DUI Homicide unit is so overburdened; more assistant prosecutors were recruited to handle the work load. Nearly half the DUI drivers caught had a blood alcohol level almost twice the legal limit, officials said.
“How many more times? How many different ways can you say something so obvious. Don't drink and drive. It tears families apart,” Rodgers said.
There is some good news; the number of misdemeanor DUI prosecutions in our area is down significantly over the last five years.
That statistic is unexplained but may suggest the majority of drivers are less willing to take the risk.