Should a Bar be Responsible for Drunk Drivers?

ignition interlockDriving under the influence is a serious crime that has very real consequences. Unfortunately, many people don’t take this decision seriously. People are even less likely to take the decision to drink and drive seriously after a few drinks, in part because alcohol increases confidence while decreasing decision making ability. People often overestimate the ability to do things like operate a vehicle after consuming few too many drinks. In these cases, if an intoxicated patron gets into an accident on their way home from the bar, who is responsible for the drunk driver?

Many people don’t realize that a bar can actually be held accountable for the actions of its patrons under what are called, “dram shop liability laws.” These laws hold the person or business serving alcohol liable for the safety of guests, which means that a bar can be held responsible for drunk drivers, and potentially more. Many times, any sort of alcohol-fueled behaviors can fall under dram shop liability laws, including fighting or property damage. This also means that a person who is hosting a party and serving alcohol can be held responsible for drunk drivers and sued if one of their guests makes a bad decision while under the influence.

43 states currently have dram shop liability laws in place. These states punish for things such as serving to minors, known alcoholics, or people who are already intoxicated.  It is not uncommon to see court cases where a person convicted of a DUI or other alcohol-related crime turns and sues the establishment or person that served the alcohol prior to the offense being committed. While keeping our roads safe is ultimately the responsibility of the person who has been drinking, we are all responsible for ensuring that everyone makes it home safely at the end of the night. Choosing to keep any guests safe, whether in public establishments, or at private parties, is the smartest choice when determining who is responsible for drunk drivers.

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