SAN DIEGO–California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) joined UC San Diego School of Medicine students who were classmates of local victims of a drunk driving accident in the past year to announce Assembly Bill 2121 to require restaurant and bar servers to undergo Responsible Beverage Service training for anyone selling or serving alcoholic beverages, and to detail both its implementation and potential life-saving impact.
“This is a tragedy that hit close to home for us in San Diego, and I’m honored to work with this strong community to do what we can to prevent this from happening again,” said Gonzalez, who made the announcement along with local law enforcement representatives, drunk driving prevention advocates, medical experts and classmates of the medical students who were killed. “AB 2121 is a simple way for all of us to work better together to keep our streets and communities safe.”
In May of 2015, two UCSD medical students were killed by a wrong-way drunk driver in Mission Valley. The drunk driver was leaving a local restaurant when he went the wrong way on State Route 163 and caused the collision that killed two and injured three other students. In the wake of the accident, classmates of the victims have worked with Assemblywoman Gonzalez and her office to develop legislation that would better equip servers to identify signs of overconsumption and intervene before tragedy strikes.
“Responsible beverage service training can’t bring back our brilliant, compassionate classmates, but it can prevent other communities from having to mourn the senseless loss of loved ones to drunk drivers,” said Daniel Spinosa, one of the victims’ classmates at UCSD School of Medicine. “This bill will empower bartenders and servers to save lives. We wish it had been law years ago.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 10,000 people throughout the United States die on our roadways due to drunk driving every year, the equivalent of one fatality every 53 minutes.
“Keeping everyone on our roads safe is one of our top priorities, and we know the best way to prevent drunk driving tragedies is to intervene before it happens,” said San Diego Police Officers Association President Brian Marvel. “Training servers to keep an eye out and diffuse a situation before it puts people at risk helps us maintain everyone’s safety.”
Educating beverage servers in bars and restaurants is a key part to reducing drunk driving fatalities, but existing training programs in California are not mandatory. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has a free and voluntary Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs (LEAD) program. It focuses on prevention and education for retail licensees, their employees and applicants. AB 2121 would make ABC-administered responsible beverage training mandatory statewide for anyone serving alcoholic beverages.
Steve Lykins, Executive Director of the San Diego Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving added, “This proposed legislation is a critical component in the battle to stop the senseless tragedies caused by alcohol impaired drivers throughout California.
Even though training is not currently mandatory at the state level, many local governments have made LEAD training mandatory. Additionally, 18 other states and the District of Columbia have already established a mandatory responsible beverage training course.
“In 2013, there were over 1,000 people killed in collisions involving alcohol and another 23,178 were injured in these kind of accidents,” said San Diego County Medical Society President William Tseng, MD. “These are preventable deaths and preventable injuries and as a step toward improving California’s public health, I stand proudly with my physician colleagues and the medical students across the state in supporting AB 2121.”
AB 2121 is sponsored by the California Medical Association, and supported by the San Diego Police Officers Association.