Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – raises $57,000 to fight impaired driving in Kern County

September 29, 2021 | 11:28 am


Hundreds of crash victims, family members and friends, law enforcement officers and first responders, community leaders, and supporters came together Sept. 25 at the Park at River Walk to walk, run, and call for an end to impaired driving crashes in Kern County.

In the process, the eighth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – raised more than $57,000 for local educational programs and prevention services, and to support local crash victims. The event was help in-person this year after a virtual ceremony last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even during the pandemic, impaired driving crashes continue to tear apart the lives of local residents at record rates in our community,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “Kern County came together Saturday with three goals in mind: to remember victims, to inspire change, and to commit to a future of ‘No More Victims’.”

Our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office – nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States. And during this pandemic, fatal crash rates have spiked, with speeding, lower seatbelt use, and impaired driving to blame.

At the state level, the “MADD Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving” calls for high-visibility law enforcement, ignition interlocks or in-car breathalyzers for all convicted drunk drivers, and support for the development of advanced technology.

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash featured an opening ceremony with statements from representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, victims of DUI crashes, Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, Assemblyman Vince Fong, and others. It was followed by a kid’s fun run presented by Capital Dental Group, a timed 5K run, and a march by victims, their families and supporters from our community.

Medals and trophies were awarded to the fastest runners in their respective age categories, and as well to top fundraisers. They were:

  • Top Friends and Family Team: Punjabi Golf Association of Bakersfield
  • Top Individual Fundraiser: RoseMary Wahl
  • Law Enforcement Challenge: Kern County District Attorney’s Office
  • Corporate Challenge: Valley Strong Credit Union
  • Overall 5K Winners: Emma Mann and Troy Guess

Presented by the local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the event was also supported this year by Chevron, Valley Strong Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., Helping HART (Hit-and-Run Tragedies), STEPS Inc., and others. Since the first Bakersfield Walk Like MADD in 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising nearly $500,000 for MADD Kern County.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.
  • Matt Clark received the “Pursuit of Justice Award” during Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2019 “Tie One On for Safety” Gala Awards. The event annually recognizes supporters of MADD Southern California – the regional area for MADD Kern County – which also includes Los Angeles and San Diego chapters.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.

MADD Kern County to host 8th annual ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’, presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles

August 25, 2021 | 3:18 pm


For the eighth year, Kern County will come together on Saturday, Sept. 25, in the fight against impaired driving to proclaim, “No More Victims!”

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash — presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles — is Kern County’s chance to do something about drunk and drugged driving in our community. In what has become one of the largest fundraising walks and runs in town, the event brings together people from our community – surviving victims of crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, law enforcement, prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and community leaders and members – to march, rally and run for the cause.

Learn why local residents are participating in the “Why We Walk” video series at bit.ly/whywewalk2021.

Our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office – nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States. And during this pandemic, fatal crash rates have spiked, with speeding, lower seatbelt use, and impaired driving to blame.

“Impaired driving continues to be one of the leading causes of fatalities and injuries on our roadways, with devastating consequences for all involved, especially innocent bystanders,” said Carla Pearson, MADD Kern County’s victim services specialist. “Let’s all remember and remind our loved ones that these crashes are 100% preventable.”

Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash has three main components:

  • Remember: We walk for those who no longer can and alongside those who are learning to walk again.
  • Inspire: We walk empowered even when we feel powerless, as survivors when we have been victimized, and with purpose when we have lost our way.
  • Commit: We walk with supporters who share our vision of No More Victims.

At the state level, the MADD Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving calls for high-visibility law enforcement, ignition interlocks or “in-car breathalyzers” for all convicted drunk drivers, and support for the development of advanced technology.

Funds raised in Kern County’s event funds local educational programs and prevention services, raises awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, and provides support to local victims and survivors of impaired driving crashes.

Presented by the local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, it’s also supported this year by Chevron, Valley Strong Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., and others. Since the first Bakersfield Walk Like MADD in 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising more than $400,000 for MADD Kern County.

  • When: 7-10am on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021
  • Where: Park at River Walk in Bakersfield
  • Packet Pick-Up: 3-7pm on Thursday, Sept. 23, at Action Sports (9500 Brimhall Road, #400)
  • Register / Information: walklikemadd.org/bakersfield

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.
  • Matt Clark received the “Pursuit of Justice Award” during Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2019 “Tie One On for Safety” Gala Awards. The event annually recognizes supporters of MADD Southern California – the regional area for MADD Kern County – which also includes Los Angeles and San Diego chapters.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.

Family of fatal New Year’s Eve crash victim, Chain | Cohn | Stiles speak about dangers of impaired driving

February 23, 2021 | 4:04 pm


The year 2020 is a year many of us are glad is in the past, but for the families of three young people who died in a New Year’s Eve crash, they would give anything to go back in time. And one of those local families is hoping their kind of loss is the last in our community.

The family of Andrew Ortiz – mother Sasha McKeen, stepfather Steven McKeen, and father Michael Ortiz – recently spoke with Jeff Platt at KBAK-29 Eyewitness News about the crash, their son, and the dangers of driving under the influence and unbuckled. They were joined also by Matt Clark, accident and injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Adam Teasdale, 21, was charged with three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of DUI causing bodily injury for the crash at Brimhall Road and Jewetta Avenue in northwest Bakersfield that killed Timothy Michael Wilson, Devin Lee Atha and Andrew Nicholas Ortiz, all 20. A fourth passenger suffered minor injuries.

Police said they believe Teasdale was driving about 60 mph when he swerved and lost control. The car went onto the raised concrete median and slammed into a tree, according to reports. The three people in the back were thrown through the window.

Police found “whip-it” canisters of nitrous oxide — which provide a brief high by inhaling the gas — and a bottle of consumed Fireball Whiskey at the crash scene, according to the media reports. A nitrous oxide canister was also found in one of Teasdale’s pockets.

“I just killed my friends,” he said, according to a witness who lives near where the crash. “Why did I swerve.”

Teasdale refused to take any field sobriety tests at the scene, according to media reports, and would only consent to a blood draw if he was arrested. One officer stated that Teasdale “displayed sings of being under the influence of alcohol.” He also said the devil was inside him.

Teasdale is being held on $1 million bail and is due in court March 26. He has pleaded not guilty.

“You may be lucky 99 times out of 100, but that last time your luck may run out,” Michael Ortiz, father of Andrew Ortiz, said in a statement. “I’m heartbroken by this tragedy. I hope someone will learn from it, and make a good decision to not drive impaired.”

Following the fatal crash, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County also shared with media other dangers and consequences of impaired driving, including hefty fines, court costs, attorney’s fees and suspension of a license. It’s much cheaper, and safer, to call an Uber or Lyft for a ride home.

“No one has to get behind the wheel if they have been drinking or impaired by drugs, it is that simple,” said Michael Yraceburn, board member for the MADD Kern County Advisory Board.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office – nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States.

“We suffer a lot here in Kern County, Bakersfield area from the tragic loss of impaired driving,” Yraceburn said. “Protect yourself and protect those that you love.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Since the law firm’s involvement with the first Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County has raised nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions, including receiving a “Community Champion” award and “Pursuit of Justice” award, among others.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Driving safety, life-saving trends to look ahead to on our roadways in 2021

January 20, 2021 | 5:00 am


While more than 35,000 people killed each year in vehicle-related crashes in the United States, and some 3 million injured, government organizations and other safety groups work each year to save lives. Here are a few trends and initiatives drivers can watch for a glimmer of hope in 2021:

 

Pandemic Driving

It’s no surprise that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies showed a decline in roadway fatalities in the first half of 2020 due to a traffic volume decrease from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, while the overall number of deaths went down, our country did see an increase in the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

Why? Research showed that drivers exhibited riskier behavior while driving in 2020, putting everyone else at risk. In short, more people were speeding, in part because police stopped enforcing as many traffic stops to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Also, seatbelt use went down, and more people died in crashes with alcohol or other drugs in their system. For more on pandemic driving, click here.

In response to findings, the Governors Highway Safety Association said it will kick off a “Speed Management Pilot Program” in 2021, similar to the Click It or Ticket seatbelt program that will include tactics such as “traffic calming” by making roads narrower or adding pavement markings that encourage drivers to slow down. Radar use, “saturation patrols,” and automated traffic enforcement focusing on speeding prevention will also be used. The program will include both rural and urban roadways, although exact locations have not been announced.

In addition, relaxation of lockdowns following vaccinations, more at-home deliveries, and demand for travel in 2021 roads could mean busier roadways than ever.

 

Speed Bumps

Their effectiveness for causing drivers to slow down is unquestioned — speed bumps and speed humps, that is. It’s because of this that the City of Detroit has decided to install 4,500 speed humps across the city in 2021, or roughly three times the amount installed in 2020, according to the Detroit city website.

Detroit first started strategically installing them in 2018. This year’s installations will cost about $11.5 million, and will begin in the spring. Detroit’s residents will be able to request them in their own neighborhoods.

Do you need speed bumps in your neighborhood?

 

Impaired Driving Technology

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is the reason behind two pieces of proposed legislation that would require our country to include drunk-driving-prevention technology in all newly manufactured vehicles to prevent a vehicle from being operated by an impaired driver. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, this technology could save some 10,000 lives.

The HALT Act, as it’s called, was first introduced in 2019 in the House of Representatives as part of a transportation bill. It directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to add alcohol detection devices with an ignition interlock feature to the country’s safety standards requirements.

Similarly, the RIDE Act (which stands for Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act) calls for in-vehicle anti-drunk-driving technology, and is expected to be reintroduced in the U.S. Senate in 2021. MADD president Helen Witty calls this technology “the key” to avoiding crashes and deaths from drunk driving.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes locally, helping raise nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions.

 

Other Driving Technology

Companies now have a plethora of technological advances to help monitor and improve driver safety, including black box and smartphone-based solutions. Gathering driving behavior data is just one element of a successful driver safety program.

In addition, development of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles continues to move forward. Automated safety features should lead to a reduction in crashes, officials say. After all, 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error, according to U.S. Department of Transportation.

 

More Government Programs

President Joe Biden has said traffic and infrastructure will be priorities for the U.S. Department of Transportation, led by Pete Buttigieg. Strategies could include long-term, roadway-safety-focused transportation bills, and a national Vision Zero strategy to reduce or eliminate traffic casualties, a focus on bicycle and pedestrian safety, rural-road safety investments, and increased funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, according to reports.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Bakersfield 2020 virtual ‘Walk Like MADD’ – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – aims to raise funds to combat impaired driving during pandemic

September 9, 2020 | 11:16 am


To register for the 2020 Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, click here.

Like many nonprofits, MADD Kern County has severely been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, losing a large percentage of funding intended to fight against impaired driving in our community.

In fact, MADD California has lost over 80% of annual revenue, forcing drastic cuts that continue to disrupt grassroots programs and services, officials said. Meanwhile, impaired driving, unfortunately, continues to be one of the leading causes of fatalities and injuries on our roadways.

In a unifying event, MADD California is hosting a virtual Walk Like MADD this year, under the hashtag #OneMADDCalifornia, in an effort to continue fighting to end this 100% preventable crime. In Kern County, the 7th annual Bakersfield virtual “Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash” – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – will be held on Oct. 10, and is aimed to raise funds for Kern County’s local educational programs and prevention services, raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunken driving crashes.

“Now more than ever, our community needs to come together in the fight against impaired driving,” said David Cohn, managing partner at attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “The pandemic has not put a stop to DUI crashes in Kern County, and victims still need help. Join us, surviving victims of DUI crashes, families and friends of deceased victims, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and other community leaders and members to march, rally and run for the cause.”

 

VIRTUAL ‘WALK LIKE MADD’

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with 4,300 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. About 15 DUI drivers are on the road at any given moment, with a peak between midnight and 3 a.m., where there are nearly 80 DUI drivers in Kern County. Sadly, many impaired drivers weren’t stopped in time, and instead caused major damage to innocent lives through DUI crashes. In fact, for the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation.

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash is our community’s chance to do something about impaired driving in our community, and proclaim, “No More Victims.” You can help by signing up for the 5K (walk or run), or as a team captain. You can even get involved if you aren’t able to attend by signing up as a “virtual walker,” or by asking a donation toward a participant or team who has been affected. All funds raised from this event stay in Kern County.

MADD California will host a weeklong impactful event from Oct. 3-10 streamed on each Walk Like MADD website and at @MADDCalifornia YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages. Live and pre-recorded videos will highlight stories from our families on “Why I Walk,” activities will include a mediation/yoga segment, bingo, and Law Enforcement Challenge, and speakers that are key stakeholders in our communities will be featured.

Registration is now open. After Sept. 10 the registration fee is $25 for adults and $20 for youth. The registration fee will go towards your participation, team fundraising goal, and a goodie bag that includes a MADD mask. A packet pick up drive thru will be held on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, 1731 Chester Ave. (Time location is TBD).

For more information, to register and to donate, go to walklikemadd.org/bakersfield, or on Facebook at Bakersfield Virtual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash.

 

PRESENTED BY CHAIN | COHN | STILES

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes, serving as a presenting sponsor. Since the law firm’s involvement with the first Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County has raised nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • Attorney Matt Clark has been awarded the MADD “Pursuit of Justice” award. Clark is a founding board member and organizer for MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board and event planning committees, regularly speaks at local Victim Impact Panels intended to prevent repeat DUI offenses, and has done pro-bono legal work for victims of DUI crashes.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has been awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by MADD California.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

MADD Kern County awards ceremony, sponsored by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, honors locals fighting against DUI crimes

August 19, 2020 | 5:00 am


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County recently recognized and honored our local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other community members for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes during the past year. Chain | Cohn | Stiles was proud to be a key organizer, sponsor, and supporter of this event.

The 2020 MADD Kern County Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition was held July 30 during an online ceremony featuring guest speakers and award-winners. In all, more than 60 officers, personnel from the Kern County Prosecutor’s Office and others from throughout local agencies were awarded. Awards were also handed out to the investigator of the year, victim advocate, top probation officer, top law enforcement officers, and “Community Champion.”

“It’s important that we honor the people who are helping keep our streets safe from impaired drivers,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “These impaired drivers have shown to cause tremendous damage to our local community. It’s possible these award-winners have saved the lives of our own friends and family members who are driving on the same roadways.”

Watch the full virtual awards ceremony by clicking here.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,200 DUI arrests in 2019, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation.

The awards ceremony is organized by MADD Kern County volunteers, and made possible by the financial support of local sponsors: Clinica Sierra Vista, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and various media supporters. Additionally, everyone is encouraged to take the “$5 Challenge” to donate to MADD Kern County. All funds raised stay in Kern County to help innocent victims of DUI crashes free of charge, help raise awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and helps fund other MADD Kern County programs.

MADD is celebrating its 40th year with #OneMADDCalifornia, a tribute to the grassroots organization that started the cultural revolution that made drunk and drugged driving unacceptable.

“We ask that you take a stand with #OneMADDCalifornia to envision a future with No More Victims,” MADD California officials said in a statement. “Each arrest is a life saved and MADD awards our officers’ service as they dedicate their own lives to keeping our roads safe.”

Drunk and drugged driving is America’s deadliest crime. In 2018, 10,511 people were killed in impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (29%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. More than 1,000 Californians alone lost their lives due to this 100% preventable crime.

The awards ceremony is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes locally. The second event is the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, taking place virtually this year on Saturday, Oct. 10.

 

DRIVER SOBER

The high-visibility national enforcement campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” runs from Aug. 21 through Sept. 7 (Labor Day) in an effort to spread the word about impaired driving dangers and to work together to get drunk drivers off the roads and help save lives.

During this period, local law enforcement will show zero tolerance for impaired driving as departments increase the amount of officers on ours roads. In Bakersfield, officers will be conducting saturation patrols, looking for drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving aggressively or distracted, and making sure drivers are properly licensed.

“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is supported by California Office of Traffic Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Driving while high on THC? Here’s what you should know

October 16, 2019 | 6:00 am


Marijuana today has become mainstream as voters across the United States approve ballot measures for legalization and medical use. In fact, cannabis is now legal for recreational use in 10 states (including California) and the District of Columbia, and nearly three dozen states have cleared the use of medical cannabis.

As legalization continues to expand, safety officials across the country are more concerned than ever about stoned drivers taking to the nation’s roads and freeways, potentially endangering lives. But while there’s general agreement that driving while high is bad, there is not yet a linear relationship between THC levels and degree of impairment.

Read below to learn about the current state of marijuana laws as they relate to driving, ongoing studies, and what you can do to make sure we are all safe on the roadways.

 

CALIFORNIA LAW

Under California law, marijuana use and driving is still in the works. California DMV states that “the use of any drug which impairs your ability to drive safely is illegal.” The law does not distinguish between prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs.

California also does not have a legal blood concentration limit for THC, unlike for alcohol. That is, there is no stated level at which a person is presumed to be under the influence as a result of marijuana use.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed AB 127 into law, which provides funding and authorization for the California Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies, to study the effects of marijuana-impaired driving.

“One of the open-ended questions (about legal, recreational cannabis), that is a legitimate question, is public safety on the roads,” Newsom said in a statement before signing the bill. ”

 

DRIVING WHILE STONED

Government agencies are now testing ways to ensure the legalization of cannabis doesn’t create new public health risks, including answering the question, “at what point is someone too high to get behind the wheel?” The answer is complicated.

Scientists and pharmacologists don’t know how to measure if and to what extent marijuana causes impairment. The reason is existing blood and urine tests can detect marijuana use, but those tests can’t specify whether the use occurred in the day or month. They also don’t indicate the level at which a driver would be considered “under the influence.”

For alcohol, there is a clear, national standard. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher, you’re considered cognitively impaired at a level that is unsafe to drive. Extensive research supports this determination, and the clarity makes enforcement of drunken driving laws easier, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But setting a marijuana-related impairment level is a murkier proposition.

Eaze, an online cannabis marketplace, recently surveyed licensed Californian drivers who used cannabis within 30 days of responding, and here’s what they found:

  • Nearly half, 46%, who responded were unable to answer whether there exists a legal bloodstream concentration limit for THC, as there is for alcohol.
  • 81% were aware that it is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis.
  • 62% also were unaware of the legal penalties that come with it. Like a DUI involving alcohol, they can include fines, jail time and license suspensions.
  • 82% stated that driving is the primary method by which most marijuana consumers buy cannabis
  • Almost half, 45%, reported driving after consuming the drug.
  • Of adults who consume and drive, 77% believe it doesn’t affect their driving, and 16% believe it improves their driving.
  • A vast majority said they would not do so if low- or no-cost ride-share options, or delivery, were available.

In the end, the study showed that “few know critical details about cannabis consumption and driving.”

 

BREATHALYZERS?

Breathalyzer tests for alcohol are a quick and non-invasive way to tell if a driver is drunk. Testing for stoned drivers isn’t as straightforward. And there is no known correlation between blood THC concentration and impairment, and testing requires a blood or saliva sample. These complications have made it a challenge to gauge whether legalization makes the roads more hazardous. Some areas have laws that define a predetermined concentration of THC in the blood as illegal whether or not the driver appears impaired.

One company, called Hound Labs, is working on a breakthrough in creating a marijuana breathalyzer.

The company says its device can accurately detect whether a person has smoked pot in the last two hours. The device also doubles as an alcohol breathalyzer, giving police an easy-to-use roadside for both intoxicants.

Other tools now on the market to determine marijuana test blood, saliva or urine can take days for a result.

For now, law enforcement agencies rely mostly on roadside sobriety tests by officers to make an initial determination on impairment. In California, every highway patrol member learns to administer “field sobriety tests” — undergoing an extra 16 hours of training to recognize the influence of different drugs, including marijuana.

 

RESEARCH

Studies do show that marijuana does, in fact, weaken a driver’s ability to maintain focus, and it slows reflexes. But more research is still needed, experts say.

Research by the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University showed that half of young drivers, age 16 to 25, who died in car crashes were under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or both. In 2015, 43 percent of all drivers killed in vehicle crashes who were tested, tested positive for legal or illegal drugs, according to the NHTSA. In California, 19 percent of all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes who were tested, tested positive for legal or illegal drugs. And those percentages have been increasing each year.

Drugged driving is known as “a silent epidemic,” because there is a misconception that it’s OK and is safe to drive after smoking pot, as NPR reported. And the public — especially teenage drivers — are not well aware of some of the hazards of drugs such as marijuana on driving.

A major study underway on driving impairment at University of California San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research is scheduled to wrap up next year. Other groups, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., are working on creating standards for a marijuana DUI detection test.

 

STAYING SAFE

The advice for pot users and driving is the same for all substances that cause impairment: never drive while under the influence!

Just like drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs is a crime – even if impairment is due to prescribed medications, illicit drugs, over-the-counter medications or marijuana – medical or recreational. The dangers and legal consequences are the same.

Here’s what you need to know about driving while under the influence of marijuana:

  • Marijuana slows your reaction time and ability to make decisions. Marijuana affects the part of the brain that controls body movement, balance and coordination and can impair judgment and memory. Studies show that driving while under the influence of marijuana negatively impacts attentiveness, perception of time and speed. Impaired memory can affect the ability to draw from past driving experiences, especially in emergency situations.
  •  The higher you are, the more risks you take while driving. Studies show that drivers with only a small amount of THC in their blood can feel the effects. They often try to be more cautious, driving slower than normal, even sometimes too slow. However, greater problems arise when increasingly larger doses of THC are present in the blood. These drivers tend to weave in and out of lanes more, react slower to traffic lights and unexpected obstacles and are less aware of their speed. Overall, higher doses of marijuana tend to cause greater impairment when it comes to driving.
  • The effect of marijuana is strongest during the first 30 minutes after consumption. People who drive immediately after using marijuana may increase their risk of getting into a crash by 25 to 35 percent. The impairing effect rises rapidly and remains for some time. These affects can be delayed if the marijuana is ingested rather than smoked.
  • Combining alcohol with marijuana or impairing medications is even more dangerous than any used alone. Alcohol is a depressant and works by slowing down the central nervous system, which means that normal brain functions are delayed. It also impairs hand-eye coordination and how you process information. When marijuana or the long list of impairing prescription medications and illicit drugs are mixed with alcohol, the combination can heighten the effects of both on the body and brain.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Sixth Bakersfield ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’ presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles

September 18, 2019 | 6:00 am


Each year, too many innocent people die in Kern County from crashes caused by people who choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence. Those local lives lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families – are affected from this 100 percent preventable crime.

In fact, Kern County is averaging nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. In addition, Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States. This year alone (as of Sept. 10), CHP-Bakersfield officers have reported 288 DUI traffic collisions, with 11 resulting in fatalities.

MADD Kern County – together with victims, local businesses and community supporters – are coming together to say, “Enough is enough!” and “No More Victims!”

The sixth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – will be held Saturday, Sept. 28, at Park at River Walk. It’s aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, raise funds for local MADD Kern County educational programs, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

Since the first Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash in 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising more than $300,000 for MADD Kern County. In what has become one of the largest fundraising walks and runs in town, the event brings together people from our community – surviving victims of crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, law enforcement and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and other community leaders and members – to march, rally and run for the cause.

It’s also supported this year by Chevron, Kern High School District, STEPS, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., UBS Financial, Clinica Sierra Vista, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Strata Credit Union, Wells Fargo, and more. A kid’s fun run is presented by Adventist Health and Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club.

“Kern County has a serious DUI problem, and it’s going to take every single one of us to make an impact,” said Carla Pearson, MADD Kern County’s Victim Service Specialist. “We can come together to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ prevent future DUI arrests and crashes, and see a day with no more victims.”

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

‘Kern Under the Influence’: Series highlights local DUI epidemic

February 20, 2019 | 6:00 am


UPDATE: Eyewitness News recently presented a special half-hour program focused on the series highlighted below titled “Under the Influence & On the Road,” sponsored by Chain | Cohn | Stiles. To watch the entire program, click here

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You are more likely to die of a DUI related crime in Kern County than any other county in the state of California.

It’s with that startling fact that Eyewitness News (KBAK-KBFX) recently presented a five-part, in-depth investigation into Kern County’s DUI epidemic titled “Kern Under the Influence.” The series, by reporter Jeff Platt, highlights how deadly Kern County’s roads truly are, how difficult it is to keep repeat DUI drivers off our roadways, how officers try to keep our streets safe, how crash victims are affected, and how we can prevent future DUI crimes.

The series also features Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer Matt Clark, who shares his experience in representing DUI crash victims, and the suffering that they incur. Clark is a board member on MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board, and his law firm serves annually as the presenting sponsor for the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, which raises funds to help innocent victims of DUI crashes, helps raise awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and helps fund MADD Kern County programs.

Clark also serves as a speaker for the MADD Victim Impact Panel, a program that has victims and other DUI crime experts speak to first-time DUI offenders in an effort to prevent future and repeat DUI offenders. Clark also took part in a special Eyewitness News Victim Impact Panel segment that followed the five-part series.

To view each of the five parts in the Eyewitness News series and the special Victim Impact Panel segment, scroll down to “Media Coverage” section at the bottom of this post. Here is a breakdown of each of the parts:

 

Part I: Drunk Drivers in Kern County

Every day, drivers in Kern County are sharing the roads with drunk drivers. In fact, local officers arrested nearly 4,300 DUI drivers last year. And that’s just “a drop in the bucket” in terms of how many DUI drivers are actually driving on local streets, local officials say.

According to Eyewitness News, there are 15 DUI drivers on the road at any given moment, with a peak between midnight and 3 a.m., where are nearly 80 DUI drivers in Kern County. And each one of them is a tragedy waiting to happen.

 

Part II: Repeat offenders hardly punished

One of biggest problems involving DUI drivers is that state laws force our county to let them drive drunk over and over again.

In California, drunk drivers get a second chance, a third chance, and in many cases a fourth chance after they are caught before getting any real jail time. As Eyewitness News shows, in between those chances, they’re driving on Kern County’s roadways, and sometimes they claim lives.

Victims are left with little trust in the system, but want lawmakers to address and fix this problem.

 

Part III: Busting drunk drivers

For police, catching DUI drivers sometimes is like finding a needle in a haystack, and other times it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The worry always is how many they are not able to catch.

The fact is, drunk drivers outnumber the police and officers can’t be everywhere at once. But local police use such strategies as check points, saturation patrols, and having every officer DUI-trained to catch DUI drivers. They also hope other motorists look out for DUI drivers and report them to police to keep other drivers safe. A 9-1-1 call with a location and partial plate could be the difference between a fatal crash, or a driver under the influence ending up behind bars.

After all, DUI is a community issue, which will take a community effort to stop it.

 

Part VI: The insurance myth

There is a myth that many victims of DUI crashes get rich in court. In fact, the opposite is true.

A combination of old insurance laws, minimal enforcement of those laws, and rising costs of medical care has created a new normal where DUI crash victims who live end up smothered in debt. In cases of death, victims’ families are sometimes left with nothing.

“Defendants in drunk driving cases often times have no insurance or far too little insurance to cover an injury or God forbid a death,” attorney Matt Clark explained.

Two major issues are at play. One, insurance companies and the DMV don’t communicate, making it too easy to drive without insurance. The second issue is the minimum coverage rates in California barely cover an ambulance ride to the hospital.

Clark suggests increasing your uninsured/under-insured-driver coverage on your policy.

 

Part V: Your choice

Many of the solutions to end DUI driving would take huge government action, including stiffer penalties. But one solution is in our hands: every single one of us deciding to make the right choice and help others make the right choice, too. Impaired driving, after all, is 100-percent preventable.

 

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MEDIA COVERAGE: KERN COUNTY UNDER THE INFLUENCE

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of a DUI driver, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.