HERGOTT LAW - Mom's Impaired Driving Teaches Us a Lesson

Hergott Law logoPaul examines an impaired driving crash in Vernon that occurred in October 2014 and recently concluded in court. Lori Vance is a mother of 4 with an unblemished driving record and was known for making sure that others did not drive while impaired. She made the choice to drive after drinking at a bar one night, running a red light, killing Erin Smith and seriously injuring Lindsey Hauck. Ms. Vance was sentenced to 3 years in jail for causing the death and 1 year concurrent for causing the injury.

Paul suggests that it is time to implement Erin's Law requiring licensed establishments to prevent their patrons from getting into a vehicle and driving after consuming alcohol there.



Erin's Law?

Here I really disagree. Owners of and servers in establishments that serve alcoholic beverages should NOT be held to account for what patrons do or don't do. We are NOT our brother's keeper.

What the heck happened to, "Take responsibility for your actions"?  What's with our society that has to find someone else to lay blame on?

This event, tragic as it may have been, was the result of one woman making a very wrong decision.  She, and she alone, was responsible.  Crocodile tears after the fact do not alter her culpability. 

Servers, friends, hosts, etc. certainly may look out for a patron or friend who is acting inappropriately but to saddle them with a legal responsibility is patently unfair.

Our laws used to be written to describe things that you couldn't do.  Since about the early 60's, we've had a host of "Nanny Laws" to try and take the place of common responsibility. And to foist blame on other people. Incredible!


Erin's Laws

I concur with Hawk.  I recall the case that was won against the liquor establishment that was held accountable for the drunk driving.  I remember being appalled by that ruling siting the same argument as Hawk.  The drunk is responsible AND accountable, no one else!  I took the Serve Right ticket in order to volunteer at a club and I was dumbfounded at the expectations of a server to monitor, control and decide for someone else's drinking.  An impossible task when you're serving many patrons, most whom you don't know.  The high expectations and liability attached to this chore soon rendered me to reserve my duties.  It is completely unattainable and the shift of responsibility from the drinker to the server is completely wrong.  

Erin's law

As much as we may struggle with the concept, nonetheless the fact is plainly that sober people by definition have a better capacity to make sound judgements than people who have had even one drink. The longer we continue the charade of presuming that we can sell people alcohol, which has as it's first effect the impairment of decision-making, and then wash our hands of the responsibility for their subsequent decision-making, then the longer we will continue to witness the sort of tragedy that MADD and others  have fought to prevent for years. What makes this aspect of the impaired driving disaster so particularly aggravating is that businesses are deliberately and profitably impairing their customers' judgement, and then pretending they have no part to play in the outcomes. Consider how quickly those same businesses would line up to take the credit if drivers posted better, rather than disastrous, results in traffic. 

Interestingly, there is some precedent in this area already I believe. Employers have for some years been held accountable for the safety, ie safe travel, of employees after work-related social events where alcohol is served. Seems to me one of the key cases was an incident in Ontario. So the courts have already noted, and required, that we can and therefore must take responsibility for the actions of people whose judgement we've had some part in impairing.

Of course, another approach that is fully available and realizable - tomorrow - for the legislators is painfully obvious: Zero Alcohol limits, already in place for novice drivers here, and for all drivers in countries that take road safety more seriously than we do here.

"Erin's Law", or whatever we choose to call it, may indeed be problematic to implement. We might actually have to use a tiny fraction of the technological dose monitoring capacity every serving establishment in the land already has in place (it's how the bill is calculated), and a tiny amount of sober good judgement, but I think it is a sound and reasonable argument that the lives saved are worth the miniscule effort.

Of course, on the technological front,  the automotive industry already has the capacity to ensure people don't drive impaired by alcohol at least. Various highly-refined ignition interlock systems already exist, and the present debate is actually not whether, but when those will be mandatory standard safety features in new vehicles. Required retrofit to the existing fleet isn't hard to imagine as another legislative initiative; think of the job creation in the automotive sector!

So, at the end of the day, what we're debating is which new legal requirement should come first. Thinking pragmatically, my vote is for an immediate Zero limit, and routine traffic stops in the immediate area of drinking establishments.

Zero limit countries

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunk_driving_law_by_country

Brunei: Not applicable, alcohol is banned.
Iran: Not applicable, alcohol is banned.
Kuwait: Not applicable, alcohol is banned.
Saudi Arabia: Not applicable, alcohol is banned.
United Arab Emirates
Czech Republic

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