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Should drive-up liquor stores be legal in Washington state?

Seattle residents may be aware that concern over fatal drunk driving accidents is leading efforts in many states to outlaw drive-up liquor stores. Here in Washington state, it is illegal for liquor retailers to have drive-up windows, however, more than 20 states do allow these curbside alcohol sales.

Some states even allow drivers to pull up and purchase a ready-to-drink frozen alcoholic beverages, with alcohol concentrations as high as 190-proof. It only becomes a crime when a driver or passenger puts a straw through the lid or removes the lid. Owners of such businesses say that people who drink and drive will do so whether or not they have access to a drive-through store; opponents of the practice, however, say the stores need to be shut down to curb drunk driving accidents.

In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, 10,228 people lost their lives due to a drunk driver. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these fatalities accounted for 31 percent of the country's traffic deaths in 2010.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving say that drive-through alcohol sales--be it packaged beer or ready-to-drink margaritas--provide a gateway to drunk driving.

Just before a horrible accident in Texas in 2009, an already drunk driver stopped at a drive-through liquor store for the second time that day to pick up a 30-pack of beer. Less than a half-hour later, the man got into an accident that resulted in the death of one of his passengers and left another passenger paralyzed.

Police investigators found more than 100 beer cans at the scene of the crash.

The man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison, and personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the crash victims.

When someone is injured or killed because of a drunk driver, it is possible to hold that driver and sometimes a bar or establishment that over-served him or her accountable. But, it is also very important to avoid these terrible accidents in the first place.

Source: USA Today, "Concern over drive-up alcohol sales spurs efforts at ban," Alison Bath, July 10, 2012

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