Thursday, April 28, 2005


New Mexico prohibits home delivery of alcoholic beverages. There is a safety factor; fear of robbery of the driver. There is concern that the driver will leave the beverage with underage persons. And we may suspect that economics has something to do with it, as the bars and saloons would do less business if Joe Sixpack could call for a home delivery when he runs out of beer. We should re-examine this rule, and see if we can have safe home delivery of alcoholic beverages. We should ask ourselves whether home delivery of alocholic beverages would be a good thing if it could be done with safety to the driver, and with security that the alcohol would go to those allowed by law to have it.

At first blush, this also sounds like a bad idea, a proliferation or expansion of the problem of drunkenness and DWI. However, we must consider the real world here. Joe Sixpack is allowed to drink, and to get drunk under certain circumstances (home alone, for example). Joe is also allowed to sit at a bar stool and drink, but he is not supposed to get drunk there, nor is he supposed to imbibe there to the extent that (if he is driving) he becomes impaired for driving.

Assume that Joe Sixpack is home alone and has been drinking, to the extent that he is impaired for driving. He is able to function well around the house, and wants more beer. What is he supposed to do? He should perhaps be able to call the neighborhood Walgreens store and ask that they drop by with a case of cold beer, giving his credit card number, or merely his name and account number if credit has been established [at present we cannot buy alcoholic beverages on credit]; and within 30 minutes, the delivery is here. Why not? Do you want Joe to get in his pickup and drive to Walgreen's?

Jane Sixpack is a secret vodka drinker, and her husband is at work. She is at home, but has run out of vodka. She is impaired, but not drunk, so that she could walk into the liquor department of Walgreens and buy a half gallon. How does she get there? Best way is to drive her own vehicle. Do you want your family to be on the road between her house and the liquor store? If we change the law, she can call Walgreens for a home delivery of the beverage, and pay the driver with credit card, or cash, or even check. Why not?

Aside from the economics of the matter, that is, the interests of the liquor dealers and bar owners, there is no good reason to prohibit home delivery. There is danger of persons not entitled to have the alcohol getting it by the home delivery method, but that danger is offset by the overall benefits of home delivery.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


In the fight against DWI, we should be willing to consider ideas that appear absurd at first blush. Take this idea, for example. We have laws that prevent consumption of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle, and we make "open container" a fringe crime, because of the difficulty of proof that one is drinking rather than sitting there waiting until she gets home to finish the beer or glass. Should we consider making an exception, for chauffeured vehicles, such as limousines, taxicabs, and chartered buses?

We encourage party goers to take a cab to and from, or at least from (when overimbibed). We encourage Joe Sixpack to call a friend, or get a cab, when he has had too many; "go back tomorrow and get your car." Obviously, that is a hard sell; Joe wants another beer, and he does not want to disturb his friend, and he does not want to leave his car out here in the parking lot of this bar. If the cab had an extra driver, the driver could chauffeur Joe Sixpack home in Joe's car, get picked up at the destination, and Joe would be home safe, and his car would be safe. Maybe Joe cannot afford the cab and the extra driver. In that case, to encourage Joe to take the cab, perhaps we should allow him to buy a six pack or take a couple of his other drinks, for the road, and allow consumption during the cab ride on the way home.

When Jane Sixpack and her friends decide to go nightclubbing, they would be more likely to hire a limousine, or hire a chauffeur, if they were allowed to take drinks from home (after starting there), and they knew that on the way home they could have one for the road.

No, this is not a pretty picture; it is an ugly picture. But go to the bars sometime and sit there and have a beer or two and look around you. You will see people drinking to excess, that is, drinking more than they should if they are going to drive. That is reality. We are dealing here with the guy who has stopped by the bar and had too many. Do not expect the bartender to cut someone off before they become impaired. It cannot be done by observation alone, without knowledge of the weight of the drinker and a count of the drinks imbibed, and the bartender is not sufficiently motivated.

By closing the drive by windows, we have encouraged Joe Sixpack to stop in for a few cold ones before going home to supper. It was a long hot day on the construction job, or in the office. If Joe bought a six pack and started home (30 minute drive) he could have two beers on the way without becoming impaired. You say, do not trust him to do that; do not allow him to conveniently get the six pack. But you say it is all right for him to stop by the bar for "one or two" cold ones? Perhaps it would be better to close the bars between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., and open the drive by windows.

How serious do we want to get about DWI? Not serious enough to even discuss eliminating the happy hour. One small step could be to say it is okay to drink in chauffered vehicles. Bringing the cost of taxicabs and limousines down to a reasonable amount is another task.