Monday, August 30, 2004
Opening Second Front Against Drunk Driving
I've seen some recent reports about declines in drunk driving, and Tennessee has a huge drunk driving campaign that emphasizes revocation of your driver's license and significant jail time. However, I'm not sure it's the driving that is a big of a problem as the drinking.
Suppose instead (or more usefully, additionally) we issued a new driver's license that includes a code (or some sort of marking whether a Scarlet Letter-esque graphic or just a letter) that says, "I may not purchase alcohol" for some length of time (60 days, 180 days, 2 years, 5 years, whatever).
Stores and servers already inspect licenses for age, now they'd have to check for this code. In bars, it might be a bit more complicated (e.g., could bars refuse access to the facility entirely?), but there are workarounds for most problems.
I know this wouldn't be 100% effective any more than restricting sales to 21 year olds has stopped under aged drinking. However, it seems like a relatively low cost effort for states to cut down on drinking (as well as drinking and driving) and raises the cost of drinking to the person convicted of DUI (e.g., they have to bargain with friends to get them alcohol, they have to get fake IDs). Also, the risk of not being able to purchase alcohol at all for some period of time might deter those at the margin from drinking over the threshold of legal intoxication and encourage them to use cabs or other alternatives: you might not take that extra drink if it means you can't (easily) drink again for another year).
I think the restriction might be an extra inducement to help friends exert peer pressure against the offender to stop his/her drinking because they can no longer say, "It's their choice. I can't stop them from buying alcohol." Now, they would have the power to say no.
Also, regardless of its effectiveness, I think it provides a powerfully symbolic policy against excessive drinking. Just an idea.
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