Will Tennessee Ban Alcohol Sales to Drunk Drivers?

ban-alcohol-salesThe crime is drunk driving, but the cause is drinking, and a Tennessee legislator wants to prevent the first by limiting the second. State Representative Bud Hulsey intends to propose a bill which would prevent anyone from selling alcohol to a person convicted of drunk driving.

The law would require a red strip across the license of anyone with a DUI that says that the license holder cannot buy alcohol. The ban would be for three years. Anyone selling booze to such a license holder would be liable for a misdemeanor charge.

A Problematic Approach

Not everyone likes this method of dealing with drunk drivers. For one thing, it means that a person cannot buy liquor or wine even if they have no intention of driving – even if they have sold their vehicle and no longer drive at all. Some, including obviously alcohol sellers, consider this approach too strict.

One could also argue that the crime itself was drunk driving, not drinking, and so it isn’t fair to impose a prohibition on an activity that is perfectly legal in itself.

For Some, It’s Personal

Much of the movement to reduce drunk driving in America has been led by the families of drunk driving victims, most notably MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), which includes many members who have suffered personal losses due to this preventable crime. Such is the case with Rep. Hulsey, who lost a friend and colleague, former Representative Mike Locke, who was killed by a drunk driver while working for Hulsey’s campaign.

Whether this bill is considered a valid move to save lives on Tennessee roads or overreach by a too-zealous anti-drunk-driving advocate will be decided by the legislature. Unlike ignition interlocks –car breathalyzer devices which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – proposals to ban alcohol sales have not caught on nationally, so Tennessee will be an outlier if they try this approach. But if the state does ban alcohol sales to those convicted of DUI, it will be instructive to see if drunk driving collisions and deaths decline as a result. We’ll be watching.