Iowa’s Efforts to Prevent Drinking and Driving Meet Resistance
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a major problem throughout the United States. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), this problem costs the United States more than $199 billion every year. They say that by the time a driver has received their first drunk driving charge, they have driven more than 80 times under the influence. Lawmakers in Iowa are looking to new ways to prevent people from doing it and endangering others but fear the business community will resist, according to the Des Moines Register. According to one drunk driving defense attorney, drivers license suspension are not proving to be enough to prevent the act.
The lawmakers there are looking to increase the enforcement of a law that is already on the books. It is currently illegal to serve alcohol to someone who appears intoxicated. The problem is that this is not a law that sees a lot of enforcement. The Des Moines Registerandnbsp;looked at data, collected since 2009, and only found 14 Iowa bars and restaurants that had gotten any rebuke from state law enforcement for breaking this law. What people who want to lower drinking and driving in the state want is for there to be mandatory training of alcohol servers to be able to better tell when someone is inebriated.
For its part the Iowa Restaurant Association has already promised to oppose any efforts to improve enforcement of the law. The president and CEO of the group, Jessica Dunker, that they do not support any new efforts to enforce the law because they think that the state’s law is already to punitive against the establishments that serve alcohol.
The problem seems to be that despite the current penalties for being caught driving under the influence, the rates of people being arrested for this offense are on the rise. Additionally, more and more women are being caught. Deaths from driving while drunk accounted for 38% of fatalities on the roads in the state in 2015. The people caught drinking and driving are getting more and more drunk when they do it.
Lawmakers, including Governor Terry Branstad have taken notice. He put together a coalition, headed by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, to look at ways to stop people from getting on the road after drinking. This is what prompted what is being called “The Place of Last Drink Program.” The coalition wants law enforcement to take serving people who are already more drunk more seriously. They could do it in the same way they monitor bars for serving underage patrons. Underage DUI is also a problem around the United States, say drunk driving defense attorneys.
Ducker does not think these steps are needed. She thinks that the law goes far enough and does not believe that training servers would do any good. She said, “That is something that is almost impossible to train to. Training materials donandrsquo;t train that the owner should have known. They train visible or obvious intoxication.”
In 2015, the state boasted more than 6,000 restaurants and bars that served alcohol. This amounted to sales that topped $3.6 billion and was responsible for more that 145,000 jobs.
Drunk driving defense attorney Matthew Lindholm supports efforts to keep people who are drunk from getting more. He said, “We need to look at how these people are getting to the point of intoxication.”
The drunk driving defense attorney says that the penalties for the offense are clearly not working. If we start holding some of these establishments responsible, then maybe we can start effectuating some real change.”
Iowa already has a program, “Training for Intervention ProcedureS or TIPS.” There are at least 60,000 around the state who have received the certification needed to work with servers. The problem is that the program is voluntary. It focuses on prevention of drinking and driving, getting people intoxicated and keeping underage people from being able to drink.
Drunk driving defense attorneys, who are on the front lines in the battle against drinking and driving think that prevention efforts need to be looked at more. As states grapple with the human and economic consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol, they are looking for new ways.