Will Longer Colorado Bar Hours Mean More Drunk Driving?

colorado bar hours could change

Some lawmakers want Colorado bars to serve drinks longer into the night. And some road safety advocates are dead set against any change in Colorado bar hours.

The argument is nothing new, and it’s raged in other states before. House Bill 1123 would give local cities and counties the ability to decide when the taps should be shut off, rather than leaving the decision to the state.

The Colorado Bar Owners Association supports the bill – no surprise there. Longer Colorado bar hours means more Colorado liquor sales. The proponents of the bill have also come out with a unique argument in favor of the change: having bars closing and different times would make it easier for police to catch drunk drivers – they wouldn’t all be released upon the roads at the same time.

Arguments against the change – from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in particular – center around the possibility that more people will be drunk, and hence more drivers will be drunk as well.

The relationship between alcohol serving hours and drunk driving is not clear. Some municipalities have restricted alcohol sales to good effect. But some people argue that a certain type of person will drink and drive no matter what: they’ll drunk till midnight and drive, or they’ll stay later, drink more, and drive.

A similar bill failed a couple of years ago – clearly, public pressure is mounting on the side of anti-DUI efforts. That is the reason that Colorado has been beefing up its drunk driving laws of late.

If the law is passed, Colorado is pretty certain to see some increase – possibly small at first – in drunk driving. If this front proves too difficult to hold, road safety advocates should double down on enforcement, particularly in the ignition interlock area, which has been proven to reduce repeat drunk driving. In particular, Colorado needs a provision for those who have just been arrested for a first DUI offense to install an interlock device immediately.

If the dance between alcohol sellers and road safety advocates is never over, it makes sense, at least, to make the dance floor as safe as possible, with good enforcement and thorough ignition interlock laws.