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Bars Share Responsibility in Drunk Driving Collisions

"More than 1000 people die on South Carolina roads each year, and a third of those deaths are caused by drunk drivers." While 1,000 people may die each year as a result of drunk driving, the number who are injured is much higher. As an attorney who represents the innocent victims involved in drunk driving collisions, I have found patterns that emerge in the cases I have handled. It is not uncommon for a person who has consumed two or three alcoholic beverages to appreciate the risks of driving and call a taxi or rideshare. However, once consumption exceeds this amount, one’s judgment is often impaired to the point where the appreciation of the dangers of drinking and driving no longer exist.

We must face the fact that alcohol, by its very nature, diminishes a person's judgment. Unfortunately, alcohol also impairs one’s motor skills. This combination is deadly when a motor vehicle is then driven. There are certain points upon which everyone must agree:

  • Drinking and driving is a dangerous combination which puts everyone on the roadway at risk.

  • To obtain a license to sell alcohol, the bar applicant agrees to adhere to state law.

  • S.C. Code sections 61-4-580 and 61-6-2220 prohibit the sale of alcohol to an intoxicated person.

  • Alcohol service training courses exist to prevent serving a person to the point of intoxication or serving an intoxicated person.

  • Alcohol service training courses can be taken online for as little as $30.

  • Bars make the profit on the sale of alcohol while the innocent victims of drunk driving collisions bare the cost of their injuries.

  • Mandatory alcohol service training is supported by the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association.

  • States which have enacted mandatory alcohol service training have seen a decrease in both drunk driving collisions and liability insurance premiums.

The argument against mandatory alcohol service training is typically founded upon the notion that the drunk customer is solely responsible for the harms caused. This overlooks the fact that the bar sold and delivered the alcohol which diminished judgment while, at the same time, made the profit on each sale. The notion that the requirement of mandatory alcohol service training is somehow an unwarranted intrusion or regulation of small business owners and bartenders rings hollow.

We readily accept the wisdom in requiring a license and testing to drive a vehicle, in requiring training and testing in order to carry a concealed weapon and requiring training and testing to practice in certain professions, often at a cost of much more than $30. There is no rational reason why we would should not be as prudent with regard to the sale of intoxicants.

As to the patterns I referenced above, when it becomes your family that loses the loved one, everyone becomes an advocate for mandatory alcohol service training. Perhaps the best time for us to consider our position on this issue is when we are driving home at night.

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