Are Bars Responsible for Drunk Drivers?

bigstock-Couple-Drinking-Beer-90597Personal responsibility is a concept that many may not take too seriously, particularly after an evening of drinking. As a recent study has shown, people who drink are less concerned with drinking and driving after they have had a couple beers or cocktails, which is a serious recipe for disaster. So, when someone has too many drinks at a bar and then drives, who is responsible if they are involved in an alcohol-related vehicle accident?

Many people don’t think that bars are liable for the actions of their patrons; however dram shop liability laws are laws that hold the owner of a bar or the host of a party responsible for the actions of their guests while they are under the influence. The name comes from dram shops, places where alcoholic beverages were originally sold in measurements called drams. These laws make people serving alcohol responsible for what their guests do not only at the event, but even after they leave the bar or party.

This means that if an intoxicated person gets into a drunken fight, or gets behind the wheel and gets into an accident, the person responsible for their intoxication can be sued. Dram shop liability laws are state laws, and so the laws vary from state to state. Some states have laws that are stricter than others and there are even a few states that do not have dram shop liability laws at all including Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Kansas. However 43 states do have dram shop liability laws.

States that do impose a dram shop law can punish for such things like serving to minors, known alcoholics, or people who are already intoxicated. Studies have shown that dram shop liability laws have helped to reduce the number of car accidents involving alcohol and the rates of illegal and excessive drinking. Such laws raise interesting questions about the responsibilities entailed in serving alcohol. At what point is it the responsibility of the individual to handle alcohol maturely and at what point is it the responsibility of the one providing the drinks?

While states are getting tougher on the penalties involved with drinking and driving, there are still accidents and injuries happening as the result of poor judgment. Keeping our streets safe is the responsibility of the person drinking, first and foremost, but once alcohol comes into the picture, it is better to step in and call a taxi, than to put the lives of the community at risk.

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