The Worst Large Cities in California For Fatal DUIs
5.18 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
The San Bernardino County city of Hesperia ranks as the worst large city in California for fatal DUIs. At 5.18 deaths per 100,000 residents, Hesperia's DUI fatality rate is 234% greater than the statewide average for similarly sized cities we surveyed. Interstate 15, a popular thoroughfare between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, runs through this area—which is a potential contributing factor to the high number of DUI-related deaths in this area.
5.09 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
In 2017, there were six DUI-related fatalities in Hemet—more than there were in Oakland, a city nearly five times larger. In that same year, nearby San Jacinto had zero fatalities resulting from DUIs.
4.60 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
From 2015 to 2017, there were 48 DUI-related fatalities in Bakersfield—the fifth most of any city in California during that time. That's despite it having only the ninth-highest population. Bakersfield's DUI fatality rate is nearly two times that of the California average for the large cities we surveyed.
4. San Bernardino
4.45 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
The city of San Bernardino had 28 DUI-related fatalities from 2015 to 2017. This city is the home of California State University San Bernardino, which we recently ranked as the fifth-worst large university in the nation for student car owners. There's a high rate of vehicle thefts and expensive insurance costs in the area.
4.31 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
In Paramount, a city near Los Angeles and to the east of Compton, there were five DUI-related fatalities in 2016. That's more than in Glendale, a city with nearly four times the population. Paramount saw a 40% increase in DUI deaths per capita in the past three years compared to the previous period.
4.04 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Located north of Los Angeles, Lancaster had a DUI fatality rate 161% greater than the statewide average. Additionally, Lancaster's DUI fatality rate is more than 1.5 times that of nearby Palmdale—at 4.04 DUI related fatalities per 100,000 residents per year compared to 1.53 in Palmdale.
3.79 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Sacramento, the capital of California, is the only major California city (with around 500,000 residents) to rank as one of the 10 worst in the state for DUI-related fatalities. From 2015 to 2017, there were 53 DUI-related fatalities in Sacramento.
3.69 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Pittsburg ranks as the worst large city in the Bay Area for DUI-related deaths, with a fatality rate 138% greater than the California average for the large cities we reviewed. In 2016, drunk driving crashes resulted in four deaths in Pittsburg—one more than in San Francisco that year.
3.58 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Located between Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, the city of Pomona is the home of California State Polytechnic University. Despite the high rate of DUI-related fatalities in this city, insurance rates in Pomona are actually among the cheapest in California.
3.40 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
The Inland Empire city of Riverside ranked as one of the worst large cities in California for DUI-related fatalities. In 2016, 12 deaths resulted from drunk driving crashes in Riverside—the same number of fatalities as there were in Sacramento, a city that has 50% more people.
Breakdown of the most dangerous cities in California for DUIs by city size
Above, we listed the 10 worst large cities in California for DUI-related fatalities. However, our analysis included data from more than 300 municipalities. For the sake of making accurate comparisons, we separated cities into three categories: large, mid sized and small. Below, we include the rankings for each size category, using crash data from 2015 to 2017.
Of the cities in our study, the three with the highest DUI fatality rates—Barstow, Desert Hot Springs and San Pablo—all had between 20,000 and 49,999 residents. In recent years, across these cities there was an average of 10.89 DUI-related fatalities per 100,000 residents per year. This is over 500% greater than the statewide average of 1.77 DUI fatalities per 100,000 residents.
Large California cities with the biggest increase in fatal DUIs
Vista, California—located about 40 miles north of San Diego—had the biggest net increase in its DUI fatality rate of any large city in California. It went from zero DUI-related fatalities in 2012 to 2014 to nine from 2015 to 2017—enough to rank it as the 14th-worst large city for DUI fatalities in California for that period.
2012‒2014 DUI fatality rate
2015‒2017 DUI fatality rate
The most improved large cities in California for fatal DUIs
Hesperia, which ranked as the worst large city in California for DUI-related deaths, had the third largest decrease in DUI fatalities in recent years—going from averaging 8.50 drunk driving deaths per 100,000 residents per year from 2012 to 2014 to 5.18 deaths per 100,000 residents in the following period.
2012‒2014 DUI fatality rate
2015‒2017 DUI fatality rate
The consequences of drinking and driving in California
In California, most individuals are charged with a DUI if they're caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, commercial drivers and people under the age of 21 are subject to stricter rules—requiring only a 0.04% BAC or 0.01% BAC, respectively, for a DUI conviction. Below, we list the typical ramifications for being convicted of a DUI in California. In addition, those convicted of a DUI may have to complete a mandatory drunk driver education program.
First offense: For a first DUI conviction, California drivers face license suspension for four months and fines from $390 to $1,000. Additional penalties may be assessed depending on the circumstances of the DUI. First-time offenders could also face jail time from two days up to six months.
Second offense: Second-time DUI offenders in California will have their licenses suspended for two years and will be fined up to $1,000 (as well as any penalties assessed). They may also be ordered to serve from three days to one year in jail.
Third offense: A third DUI conviction in California can result in a jail sentence of between 120 days and one year—in addition to a three-year license suspension and fines up to $1,000.
An additional consequence of getting a DUI, you'll have to get SR-22 insurance and pay a $125 reissue fee (or a $100 fee if under age 21) to get your driving privileges reinstated. Furthermore, DUI charges in California stay on your driving record for 10 years, meaning you will pay increased insurance rates for that time. Also, DUIs that result in the injury or death to other persons could be treated as felonies. These will likely result in harsher penalties—such as extended jail time and fines of more than $10,000.
Complete list of California cities with DUI fatality rankings
DUI fatalities per 100,000 residents
|2||Desert Hot Springs||10.28|
We tallied the total number of fatalities caused by DUI-related crashes in cities that logged at least one fatal DUI from 2012-2017, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System for California. We then calculated the average DUI-related fatalities per year and compared this figure to U.S. Census data for California cities. We considered large cities to have populations of more than 50,000 residents, medium cities to have populations of 20,000 to 49,999 residents and small cities to have populations of 10,000 to 19,999.