San Diego

Tragic Deaths of UCSD Students in DUI Crash Prompted Bill: Assemblywoman

The legislation was prompted by the tragic deaths of two UC San Diego medical students two years ago.

Should bartenders and servers be trained to know how much alcohol is too much for their customers?

A California bill that awaits the governor's signature would require DUI prevention training for bartenders. 

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), who authored the bill, said the tragic deaths of two promising UC San Diego medical students in a wrong-way collision with a drunk driver prompted the legislation.

"A few years ago the UCSD medical students lost a few of their colleagues in a wrong way drunk driving accident and the perpetrator had clearly drank too much at an establishment and continued to be served," said Fletcher. "So they looked for a way they could actually change the law in a positive way so this doesn’t happen to somebody else."

She said the friends of the UCSD medical students played a key role in creating the bill. The students hope to prevent further DUI fatalities.

"I’m most excited for these students who took a tragedy and looked at it. They took a data-based approach and said what can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen to more people," said Fletcher. "And these students were so diligent, they looked at studies, they looked at possibilities. They helped write the actual bill."

The legislation offers a way to better equip those who serve alcohol and help them identify and understand ways to intervene before a drunk driver gets behind the wheel. 

The bill would require bartenders and servers to get mandatory training on alcohol responsibility. The training would cover a variety of topics, including the legal obligations of their employer, how to avoid over-serving customers and ways to spot other similar issues. The training would be a state requirement.

Similar mandatory training already exists for other local governments, according to Fletcher's office. In Oregon, the same program caused drunk driving fatalities to decrease. She hopes for a similar outcome in California.

"We know when Oregon put into law the same program where servers were actually educated on how to responsibly serve alcohol, when to cut it off, when to say enough is enough, and when to ensure that people weren’t driving, that fatalities and crashes went down," said Fletcher. "So we’re hopeful that will happen in California as well."

Many bartenders are unaware how many drinks will make someone too intoxicated to drive, she said.

"This is a way to turn a personal tragedy into good for all of us and protection for all of us," added Fletcher.

On Monday, the bill passed the Assembly 51 to 1. It previously passed the Senate by a 35 to 3 margin on Sept. 7. Now, it heads to the Governor's desk for final approval. 

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