Help Identify Drunk Drivers Before They Cause Harm

Restaurants and taverns must get stricter about curtailing service to impaired customers for the sake of every driver on the road.

An impaired driver recently zoomed out of a downtown Detroit casino and barreled onto the Bagley ramp to U.S. 10 going the wrong way. He forced two cars off the road and zoomed onto the expressway before a Michigan State Trooper stopped him. Restaurants and taverns must get stricter about curtailing service to impaired customers for the sake of every driver on the road, according to Dani Liblang, principal of the Birmingham-based Liblang Law Firm.

All the safety technology and all the pleading from organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving doesn't stop the carnage. Every year more than 10,000 people are killed by impaired drivers on U.S. roads and at least 15 percent of these deaths are minors. Two out of three people are affected by the injuries caused by drunk drivers or they know someone who winds up in a wheelchair for life. More than two-thirds of drunk driving fatalities (69 percent) where there is a known alcohol test result for the driver involved a high blood alcohol content driver, a trend that remains relatively unchanged for the last decade.

We can do more to insist the bars and restaurants we patronize do their best possible job to identify inebriated customers and insist on alternate transportation to help minimize their damage to others and protecting the establishment's reputation for fine service. We know that vehicles have the most advanced safety systems as we've had in any time in history, but the driver is still the wild card.

All but seven states in the U.S. have laws governing lawsuits over injuries and fatalities caused by those who bought alcoholic drinks. Michigan has the Dram Shop law, MCL.436.1801, where the establishment serving an intoxicated person may be found responsible in the case of injury or death by a driver who was proven to be over-served by the bar.

A constellation of people are working to reduce the danger of inebriated drivers.  The Michigan Beverage Association hosts three-hour seminars each month to help licensed servers and bartenders learn to effectively identify and respond to false identification and underage purchasing and possession, pinpoint intoxicated customers and develop polite ways to refuse or curtail service to such individuals. They are encouraged to keep a daily log of customers and consumption so the notes can be used in cases of legal matters. Any number of courses on line and in workshops expand and enhance training for servers.

How do bartenders know a customer is inebriated? The Techniques for Alcohol Management suggests people displaying problems with balance, stumbling staggering gait, bumping into furniture or falling off the bar stool could be candidates for a taxicab ride home. Some establishments pay for the cab as a service to the customer and their respect for the community. Other signs include bloodshot and/or glassy eyes, disheveled appearance and slurred speech.

Though difficult legally and often lengthy processing, establishments can be held libel. A Charlotte, NC jury returned a $1.7 million verdict against Eddie's Place in 2012 after a heartbreaking drunken driving crash critically injured a young couple and killed their unborn child on October 29, 2010.  Matt Eastridge, the injured victim, learned the inebriated driver had been served the equivalent of 15 drinks in two hours, according to USA Today. He and his wife were in the hospital a full month and required extensive surgeries and lengthy therapy to function. Emotionally they may never recover fully.

The Eastridges sued under North Carolina's law that establishes liability for bars and restaurants serving alcohol to clearly intoxicated people who subsequently cause death or injury in alcohol-related driving incidents. The Mothers Against Drunk Driving website cites 31 states that treat individuals who serve alcohol to obviously intoxicated guests with the same liability as bars.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving have campaign initiatives to support high-visibility law enforcement to catch drunk drivers and court systems that deliver severe penalties to those found with over .08 blood alcohol content. Technology may provide more help as ignition interlock devices or in-car breathalyzers become more affordable. Anyone convicted of a Driving Under the Influence charge would be required to blow into a machine or take a saliva test before the engine would engage. After seven years of campaigning for such devices, 28 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory all-offender ignition interlock laws, up from only one state. Advanced in-vehicle alcohol detection technology is no longer just a concept, now in its second phase of development.

Please help stop the carnage. If you know a problem drinker, encourage them to take a designated, sober driver with them on their escapades. If you frequent a bar or restaurant and see a regular number of sloshed drivers leaving the establishment, call the owner. You could keep your favorite tap room in business because the cost of a lawsuit could capsize even a chain restaurant. On the other hand, you could lose a friend or a watering hole, but you could save a life.

Dani K. Liblang of The Liblang Law Firm, PC, in Birmingham, Michigan, has been defending collections cases for over 30 years. She can help you get out from under the debt created by subprime lending and desperate situations. Contact The Liblang LawFirm, PC, today for a free consultation.

For more information or to schedule an interview contact:
Melinda Kollins - 248-722-5408

Source: Curtis & Associates