Local drunk driving crash brings up important discussion


Carly Rohrer, Elaina Seybold, and Zoe Cox

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, a local drunk driving accident resulted in the loss of two young parents. Local media agencies reported how their three daughters, aged 1,4, and 5, are all critically injured and now face the world orphaned. While the primary heartache centers on the loss of life, many in our school community carry the additional weight of knowing the driver responsible was a recent alumnus of Laguna Beach High School.

Similar to how these young girls lost their loved ones, Adrina Daniel, a recent graduate of San Clemente High School, tragically lost her mother to drunk driving in 2018.

“I woke up, got ready for practice, and walked downstairs, but something just didn’t feel right. I felt an emotional tension from the people that were downstairs. Eerie silence,” said Daniel. “The faces I was looking at didn’t reflect good news, but fear. And then it happened, something no one is ever mentally ready to hear. ‘Honey your mom was hit last night by a drunk driver, and she didn’t make it. We’re so sorry.’ At first you don’t really believe it. You sit there in shock, paralyzed, trying to figure out what you just heard. And then it hits you: She’s gone. This isn’t a dream. She’s really dead. But the worst part about all of this is that it was preventable.” 

It is always preventable. One person’s choice to get behind the wheel while impaired can result in irreparable damage to lives. One person’s wise choice can save a life. For example, Uber and Lyft provide a safe ride at the touch of the finger. If that is too cost worthy, dedicating a designated driver is also a great idea. In addition, talking to family members about giving a ride is also an option. Although parents may not be supportive of their teen’s decision to drink or use drugs, they would much rather give a ride than learn that their teen is in jail, or worse, dead. “Any amount of alcohol causes impaired judgment, reasoning and the ability to react quickly — all of which are important skills when behind the wheel. Road safety tests also show that marijuana causes impairment by interfering with the ability to focus, judge speed and distance, and slows reaction time,” said Marci Mednick, who leads Mission Hospital’s initiative to reduce youth substance use. “Stay safe, particularly during the holiday season, by having a plan to get home safe and not riding with an impaired driver.”

It is imperative for everyone to understand the irreversible harm impaired driving causes. Not only does this irresponsible and reckless act endanger the driver’s life, but it also threatens innocent lives. 

“I want each and every one of you to consider the cost drinking and driving could have on your life or someone else’s. I never thought it would happen to me, and now that it has, I don’t want anyone to have to go through the loss of a loved one or potentially worse: having to deal with the guilt of being the one under the influence during a crash,” said Daniel. “Anyone could make the fatal decision to drink and drive, and I don’t want it to be any of you. It costs people their lives and alters the lives of families in a second.” 

Although these incidents might seem like unfortunate accidents, there are many legal consequences for those with DUIs, especially if the driver is underage. Based on the amount of offenses that a person has, as well as the driver’s conduct with the police officer, jail time can be up to one year in California and up to four years in other states. In severe cases, the charge is also considered a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

According to an article called “California Drunk Driving Laws, Penalties, and Consequences” published by Driving Laws, “A DUI [in California] that involves certain aggravating factors can also be a felony. These factors include: causing serious injuries to another person while driving under the influence, causing the death of another person while driving under the influence, having three or more prior DUI convictions within the past ten years, and having a prior felony DUI. When a DUI is a felony, the possible penalties are much more severe and can include time in prison.”

Additionally, underage DUIs can have penalties of hundreds to thousands of dollars fines, a license suspension anywhere from three months to three years, community service, substance abuse classes, elevated insurance rates and an ignition interlock device. This is decided in court where the average cost of lawyers ranges from $2,000 to $70,000, depending on the case.

Since DUIs in California are at least considered misdemeanors and are kept on one’s record for 10 years, they can also adversely affect college applications, financial aid, scholarship applications and future employment opportunities. 

“All submitted applications ask you to declare under penalty of perjury that what you are reporting is true and correct, so failure to disclose significant information could void your admissibility or rescind your admissions decisions to a college after [being] admitted,” said College and Career Specialist Ann Bergen.

With the accessibility to prescription drugs and marijuana, impaired driving takes many forms.

Data has shown that the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes has led to increased accidents and deaths. Like alcohol, marijuana has been linked to slower reaction times, reduced coordination and altered vision that can significantly interfere with a driver’s abilities to drive safely. 

This holiday season, we are encouraged to embrace our collective responsibility to keep each other safe. 

“All I am asking is that you stop and think the next time you are offered a drink or the next

time you are pressured into getting into a car with an impaired driver. The more

people who stop and think, the more lives that are saved,” said Daniel.

Adrina Daniel pictured with her mother, Jana Pugh.



















Sources:  California DUI: What are the Penalties?, “California Drunk Driving Laws, Penalties, and Consequences”,

How much does a DuI Attorney Cost in California?