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In a letter to the Editor of the Orlando Sentinel a member of the National Board of Directors of MADD correctly cited statistics showing that last year in Florida 959 people were killed and over 14,000 were injured in auto crashes caused by drunk drivers. That is 80 deaths a month as a result of drunk driving in Florida alone. What a tragedy.
The writer then made a passionate plea for enforcement of drunk driving laws and for the use of designated drivers. The writer applauds MADD for these efforts but I wonder why there is no mention of the powerful liquor industry that profits from the drunk drivers in the first place.
While I wholeheartedly agree with MADD about these efforts to stop drunk driving I want to know how MADD feels about the Florida Dram Shop laws. These laws are intended to hold purveyors of liquor, be they public or private, accountable for negligently permitting their drunk patrons to get on the road in the first place. As we have noted here before, Florida’s Dram Shop laws are a joke. In Florida a bar keeper can allow someone to get completely drunk and send them out on the road with his blessing and almost no threat of liability whatsoever. No liability even when the drunk they put on the road kills someone else in a car accident.

You see under Florida’s Dram Shop laws a bar can sell booze to and then kick out on to the roads any drunken adult they want, with impunity, unless at the time the Bar is selling the booze they know the patron is a “known habitual drunkard.” Thus, in effect, they can serve and send out on the road new drunks, sloppy drunks, throwing up drunks, in fact almost any drunk who has not been previously diagnosed publicly as a habitual drunkard. This is a virtually impossible legal standard of liability.

Other states hold bars accountable in the same way anyone outside the liquor industry is treated. They ask was the bar reasonable in the way it acted to protect the public from the danger presented by its drunken patrons. They are not insurers of safety but they are given a potential threat of financial accountability if they unreasonably send a drunk they got drunk for a profit to drive home on our public roads.

I hope MADD will use its proven resources and resolve to stop drunk driving to address the Florida Dram Shop laws so that the liquor industry too has a financial incentive to keep drunks off the road.

For more information on this subject matter, please refer to the section on Car and motorcycle Accidents.

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