Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte.
Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte, center, talks during a news conference on Thursday about the dangerous effects of driving under the influence and urges residents not to drink and drive during the Fourth of July weekend. (Serena Guentz / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Laura Capps, District Attorney John Savrnoch, Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte and other community leaders gathered Thursday afternoon near Cathedral Oaks Road — the site of countless car accidents, many of them fatal — to speak about the dangers of driving under the influence and to urge residents not to drink and drive during the upcoming long holiday weekend.

“As much as we love our country and celebrating the Fourth of July, it sadly is the most deadly and dangerous time to be on the road because of driving under the influence,” Capps said. “Even if one person hears this message today and makes a smart decision on the Fourth of July, we will be doing our job.”

Capps shared the statistic that every 96 seconds in the country, someone is injured because of driving under the influence, and District Attorney Savrnoch said that between 2020 and 2022, DUIs increased 17%, with 2,334 DUI cases in 2022.

Representatives from the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving also were present Thursday to further spread the message.

MADD program specialist Victoria Placencia said there were 11,654 deaths in 2020 caused by impaired driving across the United States, and about 330,000 injuries.

She added that every 45 minutes, someone is killed by drunken driving.

“Long holiday weekends can be very dangerous on America’s roads, and July 4th and the days surrounding that holiday are among the deadliest for impaired driving,” Placencia said. “More people die in drunk driving crashes in July than in any other month.”

Placencia also shared the MADD victim advocate hotline, where victims of drunken driving can receive emotional support, as well as assistance on next steps following a drunken driving crash. That phone number is 877.623.3435.

Mayor Perotte spoke about the ways drunken drivers impact many different people — from the driver to the public and law enforcement officers — in physical, emotional and/or psychological ways.

“This issue of driving under the influence impacts so many people in so many different ways,” Perotte said.

Each speaker emphasized that accidents caused by drunken or drugged driving is completely preventable and that there are no excuses for driving under the influence.

Victoria Placencia, program specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Victoria Placencia, program specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, provides statistics about the number of people injured or killed because of someone driving under the influence, and urges people to make a plan ahead of holiday celebrations. (Serena Guentz / Noozhawk photo)

“DUIs are still the No. 1 killer on our roadways, and that doesn’t even begin to talk about the many, many people who sustain life-altering injuries as a result of a DUI,” Undersheriff Craig Bonner said. “The No. 1 tragedy of it all is that it’s 100% preventable.”

The speakers urged people to make a plan before going out or celebrating this weekend, whether that’s designating a sober driver, calling an Uber or Lyft, or calling a friend or family member.

“Every parent I have ever met would welcome that call [from their child, asking for a ride after drinking] rather than the call they would get from one of Undersheriff Bonner’s deputies,” Savrnoch said. “I just want to encourage everybody to celebrate, to enjoy your family, enjoy your friends, but do it safely and let’s make Cathedral Oaks, and every other section of Santa Barbara County, a safe place.”