Drunk Driving: States Focus Efforts to Ban Drive-Up Alcohol Sales

The presence of drunk driving incidents in our country have been around since both alcohol and motor vehicles first coexisted. In the last few decades, we have continuously updated our policies in order to prevent fatalities and injuries from drunk driving collisions based on experiences with past policies and a common-sense approach to problem solving. And though the United States is a country focused on convenience, especially when it comes to commerce, the ease and convenience of drive-thru liquor stores may be enabling drunken driving practices.

A Foreign Concept to Washingtonians

To many residents in Washington State, specifically those who have not ventured outside of the northwest very often, the concept of a drive-up liquor store is foreign. For a state that was only recently afforded the right to purchase alcohol at grocery stores and mini-marts, to imagine purchasing alcohol at a drive-thru window is absurd.

But in other parts of the country, what Washingtonians consider absurdity is typical everyday life. In fact, a recent USA Today article mentioned that as many as 23 states allow some form of drive-up or drive-through liquor sales.

In some southern states, such as Louisiana, patrons can visit a drive-thru liquor store and purchase “ready-to-drink frozen alcoholic drinks made with rum, vodka, tequila, or other alcohol with concentrations as high as 190-proof from their cars without breaking the state’s open container law,” the article reads.

Louisiana state law indicates that an open container violation only occurs if one of the car’s occupants removes the lid on the drink, puts a straw through the lid or removes part or all of the drink’s contents. However, handing a fuming alcoholic beverage with a straw hole over to a driver seems like hardly the best option for encouraging responsible alcohol use.

Convenience Enables Drunk Driving

In 2009, a Texas man was driving through Gregg County when he stopped by Don’s Fly-Thru Beer Barn for his second trip of the day. Having already purchased a 30-pack of beer from Don’s earlier that day, Robert Kirk decided to go for another order of 30 canned alcoholic beverages without even stepping out of his truck. He would then go pick up two friends; one of whom was dead and the other paralyzed within a half-hour of the deadly joyride.

Sadly, the story of Kirk and his two friends is just one of thousands every year; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10,228 people died in alcohol-impaired driver collisions in 2010. These fatalities accounted for just below one-third – approximately 31 percent – of all traffic fatalities in the United States that year. There is no data on how many of these people had purchased alcohol from a drive-thru store, but Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) president Jan Withers says the convenience of quick alcohol sales is only hurting the cause.

“It gives the opportunity for many more people to be on the road driving impaired,” says Withers, whose 15-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 1992.

Washington State Law prohibits the sale or service of alcohol “by means of drive-in or by curb service,” meaning that even the recently-implemented alcohol sales laws won’t permit stores to offer a drive-thru option. Various cities around the country have recently begun to adopt bans on drive-thru sales to curb drunk driving incidents resulting in fatalities, while other states (such as New Mexico) have had effective bans for years.

What do you think about the laws? Share your thoughts and experiences about drive-thru liquor sales and whether they enable impaired driving in the comment box below.

Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys in Seattle, WA

The attorneys at the Davis Law Group help drunk driving collision victims get financial compensation for their injuries and lost wages. Our experienced lawyers work closely with the criminal prosecutor to make sure that all avenues, both criminal and civil, are being pursued. If you have been the victim of a drunk driver, contact Davis Law Group at 206-727-4000.

Chris Davis
Top-rated, award-winning, attorney practicing wrongful death & serious injury law in Seattle.
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