The Washington State Highway Patrol recently released statistics regarding drunk driving arrests which indicate that a recent change to the state’s liquor laws has not resulted in the expected rise in DUI charges. The numbers show that despite the increased availability of hard alcohol, there has been no corresponding increase in drunk driving arrests or accidents.
It’s now been a full year since Washington passed a liquor privatization measure, which increased the availability of hard alcohol to those wanting to purchase it. The law, formally known as Initiative 1183, permitted the sale of liquor in private establishments rather than state-run stores, a major change for a state with a history of restrictions on the sale of such beverages.
The numbers were compiled by a researcher at the Washington Policy Center based on figures provided by Washington law enforcement agencies. The numbers show that there 2,347 drunk driving accidents in the year since privatization occurred. Though this is certainly high, the previous four years where alcohol was sold only in state-run stores saw more than 2,500 drunk driving-related accidents. This past year also saw 19,703 DUI arrests, a number that is several thousand lower than the previous year, which saw 21,577 people arrested for drunk driving.
Researchers say that the numbers show fears were misplaced about how privatization would lead to an increase in drunk driving accidents and arrests. Instead, the numbers clearly demonstrate that access to alcohol is not what drives the arrests. The fears about the social harm that privatization would lead to has proved totally unfounded, perhaps serving as a lesson to other states that the strict control of alcohol does not always achieve its stated objective of reducing drunk driving dangers.
Another important figure shows that liquor consumption is up only slight, far from the anticipated explosion in popularity that opponents of the privatization measure feared. In the 12 months since privatization went into effect, liquor sales, including those from bars and restaurants, increased by less than 1.5 percent.
The results in Washington might lead many to question the validity of some of Minnesota’s array of restrictions on liquor sales and whether there exists a correlation with Minnesota DWI arrests or charges. For example, Minnesotans are only allowed to buy liquor in special liquor stores, not in grocery stores or gas stations. This law leads to all kinds of inefficiencies, such as when grocery store chains are forced to open their own liquor stores next door to their existing supermarkets. Liquor stores in Minnesota are also closed on Sundays, another restriction to access of alcohol that likely has little impact on the safety of those out driving on Minnesota roads. Given the results in Washington, it might be fair to wonder how useful these restrictions are and whether some sensible changes should be considered.
Source: “DUI arrests trending downward with liquor privatization,” by Carleen Johnson, published at KOMONews.com.