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First Sonoma County DUI Fatality of 2013 Near Sebastopol


A Sonoma County DUI fatality has ended two years of extremely low Sonoma County DUI fatality statistics. It is the first such tragedy in Sonoma County and only six weeks into the new year. A Santa Rosa man crashed his fiancée’s SUV into an embankment north of Sebastopol. The wreck killed the man who was the only passenger in the vehicle, the

23-year-old Mark Edward Church was, according to California Highway Patrol reports, out with friends on the night of February 8. The group was drinking at a bar in Forestville until the early hours of Saturday morning. The group had a designated driver, who was not Church. However, because the vehicle the group used to travel to the bar was an SUV belonging to Church’s fiancée, Andrea Smith, Church retained possession of the keys. When Church attempted to leave the bar, his friends attempted to take the keys from him, but were unsuccessful, according to CHP Officer Marcus Hawkins.

Because the SUV was the group’s only vehicle, the remainder of the group began walking home. Approximately a mile into their walk, the group saw Smith’s Dodge Durango, with its airbags deployed. The vehicle had crashed into an embankment near where Covey Road dead-ends into Trenton Road. The group called for assistance, but paramedics pronounced Church dead at the scene. Church was not wearing a seat belt, Hawkins reported.

There was only one Sonoma County DUI fatality in 2012, and only two in 2011, according to CHP statistics. Sonoma County experienced 20 such deaths in the two preceding years. In 2010, the state registered its lowest number of DUI fatalities ever, at 791.

In 2009, the CHP received more than $1 million in grant funds for its Designated Driver Program. The CHP, in a press release related to the program, noted that, state and local programs had achieved success with reducing the number of DUI-related fatalities, but that, according to the Office of Traffic Safety Director Christopher Murphy, “we still have a long way to go with young males.” More than one-half of all DUI arrests occurring in California in 2008 were males between the ages of 21 and 34. The OTS’s “Traffic Safety Report Card” determined that, of the fatal crashes in 2010 involving a drunk driver, 30 percent of those impaired drivers were age 21-24. In 2009, that number was 33 percent.

The CHP’s Designated Driver Program has provided promotional materials to the public, as well as participating bars, which feature the program’s logo. A series of public service announcements also encouraged people to designate a sober driver when out drinking.

Even one death resulting from an accident involving an impaired driver is too many. As state and local authorities escalate efforts to prevent these deaths, enforcement increases as well. The system only works, though, if those accused receive a full and fair opportunity to defend their rights. If you are facing a Sonoma County DUI charge, a Mendocino County DUI charge or a Lake County DUI charge, contact an experienced Santa Rosa DUI attorney. Our knowledgeable Sebastopol DUI attorneys have many years of handling DUI cases in Sonoma County, Lake County and Mendocino County and can help you deal with your case. Contact us online or call our Santa Rosa office at 707-576-7175 to arrange for a free and confidential DUI consultation.

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