Drinking And Driving

DVD – The following is an excerpt from:

Seminar Series #7: (52 min.)

“Drinking And Driving”

Your Role As A Responsible Server/Bartender. Understanding your legal obligations and tips on how to handle difficult situations.


“Just don’t.” – Michael Root

I was talking to a police officer a few years ago about the seriousness of the topic of drunk driving in the nigtclub & bar industry. He told me three things that stuck with me and convinced me that, as a bartender and by being an active part of this industry, I am also an active part of the problem of drinking and driving.

  • 40-50% of all drivers killed on Canadian roads were impaired at the time of the accident. (These people would probably be alive if they hadn’t been drinking and driving.)
  • Half of all alcohol related traffic accidents occur between 11 pm and 3 pm. (Last call)
  • In North America it is estimated that 1-5 drivers has been drinking and 1 in 10 is legally impaired on any Friday or Saturday night. (Our biggest nights…next time you’re driving on a Friday or Saturday night, start counting cars and do the math.)

I don’t know where he got these statistics, but his points and mine are:

  • Drunk driving is a serious problem
  • As a bartender, server, bar manager etc. We are involved
  • We can do something about it

Ways to help prevent drunk driving

  • Bartender can: suggest that the patron leave his or her car keys with the manager, who will ensure that the car is not towed away.
  • Offer to call a cab.
  • Offer to call a friend or relative who will agree to drive the customer home.
  • Encourage sober friends to drive the guest home.
  • Promote a designated driver program.
  • Install a taxi phone and/or have parking stalls reserved outside the main door for them.
  • Promote the safe ride program offered in your city…or start your own.
  • Encourage staff awareness.
  • If the patron refuses all of the above suggestions and still insists that he is not too intoxicated to drive home, inform your manager of the efforts you have made to provide alternative transportation. Your manager might intervene and inform the patron that the police may have to be called. This can be done anonymously, but this threat must be made with the full intention of following through if necessary.
    As a bartender or server you are involved and you have a moral obligation to take care of the people you serve and profit from. When people drink, they lose the ability to make good decisions as well as their reflexes and you help them get that way. You also have an obligation to protect innocent people from any harm the customer you over served might cause before he/she sobers up. A little effort on your part can really make a difference. How would you feel if one of your customers drove drunk and killed a woman and her baby?
    If you don’t agree that you have a moral obligation (and some people don’t), read on. In North America when a lawsuit is filed against a bar or restaurant and over service is the claim, the bartender or server will be personally liable also. It happens. Check your local liquor laws or ask your police. YOU can be held PERSONALLY responsible.

Maybe. Sorry, but that’s the best answer I can give you. This chapter on drinking and driving is not legal advice nor is it intended to be. This chapter is meant to inform and warn you that the bartender can no longer say, “I just work here.” and walk away. You’re involved in the issue of drunk driving whether you like it or not.


All hope is not lost. Many western laws are based upon this theory. The basis of it is quite simple. What would a “reasonable” average, everyday, sane man (or woman) do in a particular situation. For example, if i’m a bartender and you come into my bar and get incredibly intoxicated I cut you off and try to convince you to take a cab. You refuse (laughing in my face) but I try to convince your friends to take care of you (at this point you have none). I persuade you into a cab outside and buckle you in. The cab moves 6 feet when you hop out again and head for your car, laughing all the way. I run after you, persuade/carry you to my car, drive you home, tuck you in, read you a bedtime story (Dr. Suess ,GREEN EGGS AND HAM, my favorite), give you milk and cookies and turn out the light so that I can go take care of my other customers. You then get out of bed and drive your roommate’s car into a 7-Eleven and sue my bar and me. Whew! Well, chances are pretty good if I’ve done all that, I’ll be OK legally. The point I want to make is that there are no guarantees because the bartender who served you and the bar you were served in are responsible for you until you sober up. Check your local laws and serve responsibly!

I found the following information posted on a car insurance company wall in Edmonton, Alberta in 1994. Many of them have changed now but apparently at the time, these reports were all true. The point of having all these here is to show that drinking & driving is a worldwide problem and different countries are dealing with it in different ways. I’ve never seen another listing like the one I found many years ago. Yes, it’s outdated but it certainly makes for good discussions and that I think can only help the overall problem by finding more creative solutions.



Arizona: 1992 – 1st time offenders – 24 hrs in jail, $250 fine and 90 day license suspension. 2nd time offender within 3 yrs – 60 days in jail along with fines and license actions.

Australia: the names of the drivers are sent to the newspapers and are printed under the heading, “He’s Drunk and in Jail”- fine up to $1000 and/or 6 months in jail; 3 month minimum loss of license.

Austria: Drunk driving – no accident- fine of 5,000 to 30,000 Austrian shillings or prison up to 6 months. With an accident, the consequences are more severe.

Bulgaria: A second conviction results in execution.

Canada: 1st offense dor drunk driving – fine between $50 and $2,000 or jail for 6 months or both. 2nd offense – from 14 days to 1 yr in jail. When the motor vehicle has caused bodily injury- jail up to 10 yrs; death – up to 14 yrs in jail.

Czechoslovakia: Jail up to 1 yr, reformatory measure, loss of drivers license and fines up to 50,000 crowns. A reformatory measure: confiscation of 10-25% of driver’s salary. The court may also direct that he will be removed from his present position and employed in a less responsible job.

El Salvador: First offence is your last – you are shot by firing squad.

Finland & Sweden: Jail – 1 year hard labor plus fines. NOTE: in Finland, if an individual yields a vehicle to someone guilty of drunk driving, they will be fined or imprisoned for up to 1 year.

Japan: fine up to 30,000 to 50,000 yen or 3 months – 2 years penal servitude ( imprisonment with hard labor ) or jail.

Malaysia: the driver is jailed and if he is married, his wife is jailed too.

Norway: 3 weeks in jail at hard labor, 1 yr loss of license, 2nd offense within 5 yrs – license revoked for life.

Poland: jail, fines, political lectures.
“For drivers with blood alcohol content above .15% on weekend nights, the likelihood of being killed in a single vehicle is more than 380 times higher than it is for non-drinking drivers.”
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, U.S.A. , 1992


If you’re interested in learning more about drunk driving, statistics, ways to prevent driving drunk and the legal issues around it:
or your local police department and they’ll give you all the info you can handle.



Here are some other links on drinking and driving etc. :

Alcoholics Anonymous  http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org

Responsible Drinking http://www.beeresponsible.com 

Article:  Drinking too much alcohol may lead to serious safety, health problems http://www.med.umich.edu/opm/newspage/2002/hangover.htm
Positive Choices
Positive Choices is a public service program designed to make teens aware of the alternatives they have to getting in a car with someone who has been drinking alcohol.


In Canada you can call 1-888-TAXIGUY or 310-TAXI for a cab (though TAXIGUY is a much more established program).

Operation Lookout – www.arrivealive.org

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