Tennessee lawmakers are looking to significantly limit the access to alcohol for anyone convicted of a DUI. Sponsored by Rep. Bud Hulsey and Sen. Frank Niceley, House Bill 1698 would require convicted drunk drivers to forfeit their privilege to purchase alcohol for a specified period of time.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 28% of motor vehicle traffic deaths in the U.S. during 2016 were caused by alcohol-impaired drivers. In that same year, alcohol-related crashes accounted for 21% of all traffic deaths in the state of Tennessee. The bill is one more attempt to keep motorists safe and it’s not the first time a solution like this has been proposed.
No Booze For You
As stated in the bill, anyone convicted of a first offense would face a one-year restriction on the purchase of alcohol while a second offense would lead to purchasing privileges being forfeited for two years. A third DUI conviction would result in a lifetime ban on purchasing alcohol with no option for reinstatement and any offender caught trying to purchase alcohol would face a Class C misdemeanor.
An offender’s prohibited status would be reflected on an updated driver’s license. This ID would include a red stripe and “No Alcohol Sales” stamped on their license to clearly identify them as being restricted from making purchases.
And while the proposal would limit purchasing options for offenders, it cannot guarantee convicted drunk drivers will not drink at all. Simply banning someone from buying alcoholic drinks does not completely remove their access to booze, which can be gained through family or friends.
Stopping Alcohol Sales At The Source
Despite these loopholes, legislators have not been deterred from doing their part to keep Tennessee’s roads safer. Under the original proposal, a vendor caught selling alcohol to an offender would also face the same Class C misdemeanor that a convicted DUI offender would face if caught making a purchase—up to five months and 29 days in jail plus a fine. However, the bill has since been amended, removing the punishment for selling alcohol to offenders.
Ultimately, lawmakers decided against punishing vendors who did not commit the original DUI crime itself. As it stands now, the bill has advanced to the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee and could be signed into law as early as July 1.
What do you think? Will restricting the sale of alcohol to convicted drunk drivers result in reducing DUIs and alcohol-involved crashes or should the state of Tennessee focus its efforts elsewhere?