February 4, 2015

Proposed Laws Would Bar Drunk Drivers From Buying Alcohol

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For the second time in two years, New Mexico State Representative Brian Egolf has proposed a bill to prohibit convicted drunk drivers from purchasing alcohol. The bill—which was defeated in the state’s senate in 2013—would require DUI offenders who are under orders to use an ignition interlock to carry a special driver’s license or identity card noting they are not allowed to buy booze.

According to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol-related crashes account for 30% of all traffic deaths in New Mexico. Currently all convicted DUI offenders in the state must install an ignition interlock in their car. However, the law has roughly a 50% compliance rate. Because so many evade their interlock requirement, Egolf feels prohibiting alcohol sales to people convicted of intoxicated driving would make the roads safer. Egolf recognizes his bill isn’t perfect but he is giving it a second try in hopes of arming the state with another tool to prevent drunk driving.

To the east, the Oklahoma legislature is considering a bill that would not only prohibit convicted drunk drivers from drinking, but would also make it a felony to “knowingly” sell or give alcohol to a person court-ordered to abstain from drinking. Like the proposed New Mexico measure, Oklahoma would issue special IDs marked “alcohol restricted” to alert clerks and servers that the person is not allowed to drink. The felony penalty for those who sell or provide alcohol would make the law one of the toughest drunk driving measures in the county.

Supporters of these bills claim banning alcohol consumption and purchases are appropriate sanctions for drunk drivers. Many courts already prohibit DUI offenders from consuming alcohol for a period of time and these bills would make that practice more widespread. Furthermore, the bills would get more of the community involved in preventing drunk driving by making businesses that sell alcohol part of the solution.

However, opponents question how effective the laws would really be. DUI offenders could enlist a friend or family member to purchase alcohol for them, and many retailers and restaurants do not card patrons who appear to be over 21. In addition, there are concerns about the anticipated costs to design a new license type and to enforce the laws. Washington State considered a similar bill in 2013, but after reviewing the financial projections decided that it wasn’t workable.

Do you think these bills will help reduce DUIs and alcohol-involved crashes or should states focus their efforts elsewhere?


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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