By: Kyle James | 12-28-2017 | News
Photo credit: John Roman | Dreamstime

New Law Offers Californians Free Rides Home When They're Drunk

As millions of people across the country party for the holidays, a new California state law that takes effect January 1 is seeking to prevent drunk drivers taking to the road.

The new law is under Assembly Bill 711 which would allow alcohol manufacturers and licensed sellers to offer free or discounted rides through ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft as well as taxicabs.

The idea behind the new law is to make sure that drinkers are transported home safely, without endangering the public. Alcohol sellers will be able to give out codes or vouchers directly to alcohol consumers but the law prohibits them being used as an incentive to buy a company's product.

One has to wonder how the companies will know if a rider is intoxicated or not? Could someone who isn't drunk use one of these codes? The idea is a noble one but it will be a hurdle for the state to implement it effectively.

Ride-sharing services, Lyft and Uber, both publicly supported the bill with the latter saying, "We are always supportive of efforts to reduce drunk driving. That is why we have partnered with MADD over the past few years to promote safety and getting a designated driver."

Under current law, California prohibits alcohol licensees from handing out discounts to consumers although there are a few exceptions to this rule that allow companies to pay for rides for drinkers attending private, invitation-only events on a temporary basis.

The new bill would allow those rules to be loosened in hopes of keeping drunk drivers off the road. Those who support the bill say that forty-four other states and the District of Columbia already allow liquor manufacturers to pay for free or discounted rides while the legislation is hashed out.

Those who oppose the bill cite fears that the new law allows companies to promote consuming too much alcohol, but who decides how much is too much?

A nonprofit in San Rafael and avid opponent of the bill called Alcohol Justice says, "While drunk driving is a serious concern to public safety, and efforts to reduce it should generally be applauded, this bill implicitly allows for beer manufacturers to promote the overconsumption of alcohol."

Alcohol Justice also says, "It will negatively impact public health and safety and increase the potential for alcohol-related problems."

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