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In Bars & Clubs

Sunday Sound-off: Should car passengers be allowed to drink?


Welcome to the first segment of the new and improved Sunday Sound-off, which now features a question, two different perspectives -- then opens up the topic to our readers' responses. Please use the Talkback feature below to contribute your thoughts on the issue.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation State Patrol Web site, the fine for open intoxicants in a vehicle is $212 for a driver and $150 for a passenger. The price difference suggests that the current law finds it less problematic for passengers to drink alcohol than drivers. On the other hand, we've all heard that drinking and driving don't mix, and that inebriated drivers cause thousands of accidents and deaths every year.

But what about drinking -- and not driving? In other words, what if passengers were allowed to drink alcohol while the designated driver means stone-cold sober? Why should that be considered illegal?

Yes: As long as the driver doesn't drink, why does it matter if the passenger sips a cocktail while en route? Passengers are aloud to drink in limos and on party busses (with a hired chauffeur), so why not in vehicles with designated drivers? Does it take any more "will power" for a designated driver to say no to a drink while driving than sitting in a bar drinking soda? Good judgment is good judgment, and the likelihood of a drunken passenger shoving booze down a driver's throat is between slim and none.

No: This is ridiculous and against the law. If passengers were allowed to drink, more drivers would drink too, and there would be more drunk driving accidents and more homicides. From a practical perspective, it would make the open intoxicant law impossible to enforce, as a driver who is drinking behind the wheel could literally pass the bottle to the passenger and get of scott free. This is a step toward the tolerance of booze and automobiles, which in any configuration is a deadly combination.


Talkbacks

Kyle2008 | Nov. 14, 2008 at 3:45 a.m. (report)

Currently, travelling with a drunk driver is not an offence but helping someone known to be drunk to drive - for example finding their keys for them - is aiding and abetting. ================== Kyle DUI

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phoner | April 15, 2007 at 11:49 p.m. (report)

I know I have a hard time driving when the passenger is hanging out the window puking.

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WestsideTide | Feb. 22, 2007 at 11:52 a.m. (report)

Great idea! I think mini-fridges full of tall boys and 40s of Old E would go well with the DVD and TV Screens that are popping up in the front seat of cars. Your passenger could put their feet up, open a cold one, and watch the game or maybe even some porn. C'mon, cars are for driving and getting from one place to another. I think you can wait the five minutes...

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alba | Feb. 18, 2007 at 4:52 p.m. (report)

I believe both the driver and passenger should be allowed to drink alcohol in a car. It's driving while intoxicated that's illegal, not simply drinking. Right now you can shotgun a beer one second before driving your car, but you can't sip a beer while moving. I understand that drunk driving is bad, but the open intoxicant rule just doesn't make sense.

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JoshHeller | Feb. 18, 2007 at 11:32 a.m. (report)

This seems pretty simple. Of course we should be able to have a drink if we are a passenger. But with all the bad press from the moron drunk drivers it will never happen. If you can go to a bar and not have a drink then I'm sure you can drive while others are drinking. I also think it is ridiculous to think people are going to drive while impaired more if passengers were allowed to have a drink.

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