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Do dram shop laws reduce alcohol-related accidents?

Alcohol-induced accidents are some of the most heart-rending accidents — and that is because many of them could have been prevented. Not only do they result in injuries and fatalities for victims in the accident, the drunk driver often ruins his or her own life as well.

While a drunk driver is rarely forced to get intoxicated and then climb behind the wheel of a vehicle, those who serve already intoxicated patrons may also be held liable if the patron subsequently causes injuries or death to others by engaging in an auto accident. This falls under the Dram Shop Liability law, which several states, including Texas, have enacted.

Do dram shop liability laws make a difference in reducing alcohol-related crashes?

According to a report by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, when a dram shop liability case was filed in Texas in 1983, single vehicle crashes that occurred at night and resulted in injuries decreased by 6.5 percent. Another case was filed in 1984, and a 5.8 percent decrease was noted. Alcohol-serving establishments do not want this extra liability, so it is in their best interest to practice safe-serving of alcoholic beverages.

MADD also believes that dram shop liability state laws contribute to more publicity in regards to over-serving; thus managers and servers in these establishments are more aware of the liability. In addition, they discovered that many alcohol-serving establishments no longer encouraged excessive drinking through promotions, such as unlimited drinks for a flat fee. Selling to minors also decreased significantly due to more identification checks.

MADD also noted that although dram shop laws have made establishments liable for over-serving patrons, personal responsibility also still falls on the individual. The fact that dram shop laws have resulted in establishments enforcing safe-serving practices, holding both the establishment and the individual responsible for punitive damages — in the event of an alcohol-related accident — may serve a similar purpose. Negative consequences are often the best deterrent to unhealthy actions.

Source: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, “Dram Shop and Social Host Liability,” accessed April. 23, 2015

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