Friday, January 01, 2010

A simple step to cutting down on drunk driving

We've heard a lot of talk in the last year about drunk driving and how Wisconsin needs to start getting tougher on, not just repeat drunk drivers, but first time offenders, as well. I agree something needs to be done. Granted, our lawmakers in the last year or so have taken some steps toward cutting down on drunk driving, or at least stepping up the penalties for those who do drive while under the influence. But most of those who speak out on the issue don't seem to believe it is enough and many feel it is nothing more than "feel good" legislation.

I have one solution that will at least curb the problem on one day of the year. Change the laws in Wisconsin so that bars must close at the same time on New Year's Day as they do any other time. Why is it, after all, that we in Wisconsin feel that just because it's New Year's Eve and a big-time party night for many, that as celebrations in bars continue past midnight and creep into the wee hours of the morning they should be allowed to continue all day, non-stop? Given this legal ability to stay open past the normal closing time, bars can actually be open from about 6 or 6:30 a.m. on New Year's Eve Day (Dec. 31) until 2 or 2:30 a.m. on January 2. That is approximately 44 hours, something that seems insane to me.

Now, I understand bars don't have to remain open that long and, indeed, many do not, but the fact that they can certainly is doing nothing to curtail excess drinking or drunk driving. I also understand the Tavern League - a powerful lobbying force in our state - probably would fight any efforts to change the law. But that really shouldn't matter. If we're trying to save lives and reduce injuries and property damage related to drunk driving, that cause should trump their desire to make a few extra bucks.

Again, I realize this is only one day a year and does nothing to help curb the problem the other 364 days of the year, but every little bit helps and why not start with something that seems like a no-brainer. Other states don't allow their bars to remain open that long during the New Year's holiday. Why do we feel the need to?


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