Call Me, Irresponsible…

You and your friends go to the local bar to watch some hockey and drink some beer. You each have a couple and are having fun, laughing, cheering for your winning team. Suddenly the bar staff comes over, demands your car keys and tells you they have called a taxi and you have to leave. You are escorted off the premises.

Crazy? Not if the Ontario Liquor License Act enforcers have anything to say about it. They want to hold bar owners and bar staff responsible for your drinking.

  • Bar owners and staff can and have been charged if they have intoxicated people on the premises whether or not they served you the alcohol that made you intoxicated.
  • They’re not allowed to sell alcoholic beverages to anyone who appears to be intoxicated.
  • They are responsible if you hurt yourself while under the influence of alcohol on their premises or after you leave their premises – even if you were already drunk before you got there.
  • They are responsible for making sure you get home safely after you’ve been to their establishment.

“Intoxication” is a completely objective term, legally. There are, of course times when it’s obvious, but not always. I know plenty of quiet drunks who have enough experience that they can appear just a bit tipsy while completely blotto.

In a very high profile case, earlier this year, 3 employees and all 13 company officers and directors of the Port Carling, Ontario Lake Joseph Golf Club were charged with permitting drunkenness on the premises and for serving alcohol to someone who was intoxicated. Four young people left the place following an afternoon of golf and drinking. They got into a car, drove too fast, lost control, ran off the road into a tree and  flipped the car into Lake Joseph. Three of them, including the driver ended up dead.

Tim Mulcahy, the father of the driver, thinks the laws are ass-backwards. He thinks the focus should be on making driving laws tougher. For one thing, he found out after the fact that his son had already amassed several speeding tickets in the past. As a fairly new driver, why wasn’t his license suspended?

Mulcahy has also petitioned the provincial government to change the rules to state that only a blood alcohol level of zero is permitted while driving — especially for new drivers. He would also like to see it be more difficult and time consuming to get and keep a driver’s license in the first place. This isn’t a radical idea. For much of the world outside of North America it is far more difficult and costly to get and maintain a driver’s license.

All these wishy-washy terms like “drunkenness, intoxication and acceptable blood alcohol levels” obviously aren’t working.[1] And, pointing fingers at everyone but the idiots who insist on endangering their own lives and the lives of others by drinking and driving is very politically correct, but totally inane.

Are we going to charge the corner shop owner for selling cigarettes to a pregnant woman? McDonald’s for selling 2 Big Macs to the grossly obese guy? Axe for selling that hideous cologne that makes teenage boys targets for being pitched into the closest body of water?

Perhaps we need to stop being so silly about our alcohol laws and get a little less silly about our driving laws. And maybe, just maybe, start making people a little more responsible for their own actions.


[1] In 2006, in the US there were 13,470 fatalities in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver (BAC of .08 or higher). 16,005 people were killed in the United States in alcohol-related motor vehicle traffic crashes (BAC of .01 or higher). These numbers are very similar to statistics from 10 years ago — the ad campaigns don’t seem to be working. Canadian statistics are proportionally similar. Compare this to the approximately 10,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities per year for the entire European Union.