More than 20 years ago, several states, including Florida, raised the minimum drinking age from 18 or 19 to 21. They did it harshly. The federal government threatened to withhold funds earmarked for highway construction if they did not comply. Raising the minimum drinking age was a good idea. The result of this was fewer teen deaths from traffic accidents. Some states, including Florida, had lowered the minimum drinking age to the early 70s because of the Vietnam War. The reasoning was that if a 19-year-old was old enough to fight for her country, he was old enough to drink. I have seen this same bad idea come up again because of the Iraq war. It is prudent to keep the age at 21, and more needs to be done to make alcohol less accessible to those with a history of alcohol-related problems.
I would propose that at the time of a DUI or other alcohol-related crime conviction, the driver lose their license and be issued a special license. This new license would be a different color and clearly marked “Problem Drinker: Sale of alcoholic beverages to this person is punishable by law.”
When purchasing any alcoholic beverage in any place (bar, liquor store, convenience store, etc.) the purchaser must show their license. Special drinking permits could be issued to those without driver’s licenses. Every time alcohol was purchased, the purchaser had to show one ID or another to be served. This would create some inconvenience for employees and bartenders and I’m sure the “hospitality” industry and the liquor lobby would stridently oppose. However, I think the benefits would far outweigh the problems.
The advantage of this approach would be that it would keep people with DUI convictions or other alcohol-related offenses out of bars and hopefully off the roads. This approach makes more sense than simply increasing the severity of the DUI punishment as most states have done. Punishing the offender with more jail time and higher fines appeals to reasonable and rational adults. Unfortunately, addicts and active drunks are not usually subject to the influence of reason.
The Dry Law (1919-1933) was a failure in this country and obviously should not be attempted again. However, taking some measure to limit the availability of alcohol would undoubtedly prevent some traffic deaths and slow or stop the insidious process of alcoholism in some. In Florida, like in most states, alcohol is too easy to come by. In the past three decades, most counties and municipalities have eliminated blue laws and extended alcohol sales hours. In my opinion, it is part of the slow erosion of values and morality that has occurred since the 1960s. I am a licensed mental health counselor and have seen firsthand the effects of this erosion of morality in the hundreds of addicts and alcoholics I have treated over the years.
I propose that the states, or the US Congress, enact laws to limit the sale of alcoholic beverages from noon to midnight and none on Sundays. Such legislation would not solve the problem of drunk driving or alcoholism, but it would cause a decrease in the enormous cost in wasted money and lost lives that alcohol abuse exacts. That legislation, plus the issuance of special drinking permits and additional taxes on alcoholic beverages, would help reduce the toll in our increasingly addicted society.