Drunk Driving, Dram Shop Laws and Alcohol Testing with a Breathalyzer
“Dram shop” is a reference to colonial times when alcohol-serving establishments (shops) used units of liquid measurement called drams to serve alcohol.
Dram shop laws make it possible for bar owners and alcohol servers to be held financially liable if a customer becomes obviously intoxicated on their premises and subsequently injures someone or causes property damage, typically by driving drunk.
So, if a person has several alcoholic drinks at a restaurant or bar and is visibly intoxicated, and then gets in a car and kills someone on the way home, the owner of the serving establishment can be sued for damages.
The question that inevitably arises in court pertains to how visibly drunk the patron was before he or she got in the car. Would a reasonable person be able to tell that the patron was obviously drunk?
From the liquor establishment’s standpoint the answer is typically, no. Unless the patron is falling over tables or passed out at the bar, it’s difficult to tell if a person has consumed too much alcohol to avoid drunk driving-unless, of course, the bartender counts how many drinks the person has consumed and kept track of how much time has passed since the first drink, and how much he or she has eaten, and how large the customer is, etc.
If only there was a way to prevent drunk driving and, at the same time, to limit a bar owner’s liability by letting them avoid second-guessing a patron’s level of impairment.
Perhaps customers could test themselves with a breathalyzer before they leave the bar so they could determine their own level of impairment and avoid driving drunk and the possibility of hurting or killing someone on their way home-and, of course, the cost of a DWI.
Maybe if there was a portable breathalyzer available on the premises:
- The bar would reduce liability-with no added cost since the units are relatively inexpensive.
- The bar’s customers would avoid the tremendous costs of drunk driving-both in lives and in dollars.
- The community would be safer.
There are currently 43 states (and Washington D.C. ) in the US with dram shop laws and 8 states without them.
States with dram shop laws
States without dram shop laws