Virginia has some of the toughest DUI laws in the nation, including membership in a regional strike force that holds sobriety checkpoints every week. What we don't have in our drunk-driving laws is a process for holding alcohol providers financially responsible for negligence when the people they serve go out and injure others in drunk-driving accidents.
Most other states do have that process, due to a concept known as "dram shop liability." In states that allow them, dram-shop liability holds bars, restaurants and even private citizens at least partially liable for the costs of drunk-driving accidents if they over-serve people or allow minors to partake in alcohol.
As we said, however, Virginia doesn't allow it, which means it's up to each and every one of us to be good citizens and act responsibly when we serve alcohol.
6 tips for serving alcohol responsibly
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles urges everyone to take active steps to prevent drunk driving. For example, don't allow a drunken friend to talk you out of your objections. Be insistent and take the keys away.
If you host parties at which alcohol will be served, the DMV has six good tips for hosting them responsibly:
- Don't rely on your guests to arrange a designated driver. Before your party even starts, arrange for a sober driver and make sure they get the keys from anyone who drove and will be drinking.
- If one of your guests seems intoxicated, stop serving them alcohol.
- Have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available, including diet drinks or whatever your guests like. Consider including non-alcoholic cocktails to help people resist social pressure to drink.
- Make sure you serve plenty of food -- especially snacks that are high in protein or carbohydrates, as opposed to refined sugar. For example, nuts provide protein, which helps the body absorb alcohol more quickly than sugary snacks do.
- When serving alcoholic beverages, don't over-pour. Generosity does not require you to serve especially strong drinks.
- Plan a wind-down period of at least several hours before the party ends. Put the alcohol away so people can't drink on "autopilot." If they don't know where you put the alcohol, they'll at least have to pause and ask.
A good party host is fun. A great party host is remembered. This summer, protect your friends and loved ones from a mistake that can last a lifetime.