By LENNY DESERIO
Lacy Meinel of Schofield, Wisconsin was killed on January 10th of this year, when her mother’s car was hit head on by 23-year-old drunk driver Daniel Schaeffer. According to the Wausau Daily Herald, Schaeffer was driving the wrong way on the highway when he struck Lacy’s mother’s vehicle. Shortly after her death the Wisconsin Legislature, with the help of Lacy’s parents and classmates, passed Lacy’s Law.
Other states have passed similar laws, as in the New Jersey Supreme court decision of Rapport vs. Nicholas, which states if someone drives drunk and injuries occur to an innocent third party or property the bar owner can be sued. The court also went on to rule in the case that a drunken patron can himself sue for monetary damages for injuries he sustains since the patron is unable to exercise “self protective care.”
Under Lacy’s Law, offenders can receive up to 25 years in prison without possibility of parole if an innocent bystander is killed or seriously injured due to a crash that’s caused by a drunk driver. Perhaps the most controversial stipulation of Lacy’s Law comes in the form of stiffer penalties for bars and bartenders. Under the law, bars and bartenders can have their liquor licenses revoked if they allow drunken patrons to leave the establishment with their keys.
But is taking away a drunken patron’s keys the best way to stop drunk driving? According to Millville’s Sidelines Sports Bar and Grille owner Ted Lambert, taking away a patron’s keys is not the best solution. Lambert said, “Using physical force to stop someone that’s impaired is not a good combination. We’ve found that looking for the clear cut signs that someone is inebriated is more effective.”
Lambert then went on to say, “I have my bartenders keep a tab on how many drinks per hour a patron is having. I also have them keep on eye on their speech patterns; are they starting to slur when they talk or do they sway when they walk? These are definite signs that someone is inebriated. If someone does become intoxicated we call the police and stall the patron until the police can get here.”
Whether it is taking away the keys from someone who’s had one too many or having a designated driver give them a ride home, bars and bartenders nationwide now have a greater legal incentive in keeping the public safe.