Today (Thursday) marks the one-year anniversary of lower drunk-driving limits in Iowa. When the federal transportation department told states to tighten up the limit for drivers who’d be considered legally drunk, there was a lot of opposition, at least at first. Iowa tavern owners said they feared their businesses would lose customers and income, and that social drinkers would fill up the prisons. The number of drunk-driving arrests did not go up this past year, and there was a slight dip in the number of alcohol-related highway fatalities. Law enforcement officials say it may be the result of all the talk over tighter standards, and bartenders say while their business hasn’t fallen off, they see more drinkers choosing designated drivers when happy hour’s over.
Doni DeNucci with the Iowa Hospitality Association says the owners didn’t feel the change was needed.
DeNucci says most of bar and restaurant owners were “very conscientious about their responsibilities” even before the law changed, and know what they should do to keep customers safe. Tavernkeepers had feared their clients would wind up behind bars.
Those customers are not the ones causing the (drunk driving) problem, as she says most alcohol-related accidents are caused by drivers whose blood-alcohol is point-one-six percent and higher, not the people who had a glass of wine with dinner. The hospitality industry’s also eyeing the no-smoking rules being proposed in many communities
She says it’s “a safe bet” that more than half Iowa’s eating and drinking establishments already are smoke-free, and owners aren’t for or against smoking but want the freedom to provide the kind of environment their customers want. If most customers don’t want smoking, business will drop off, she says, and the owner will change the policy or go out of business. More government control could include limiting what you can order in a restaurant, DeNucci says, and all those decisions should be in the hands of owners and operators.