Do Bar Closing Times Affect DUI Rates?

Drinking Wine at a barWe all know the old saying, or maybe the song: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Nearly every city and/or state across the United States mandates bars close at a certain time. For instance, Georgia’s bar closing times are set by each county. However, anywhere you go in the state you’ll likely find the same closing time: 2 a.m. In some areas, like Underground Atlanta, bars stay open until 4. a.m.

Besides different areas that set these laws based on local morals, there is another perceived benefit: DUI rates. Different states and municipalities base their laws off of the belief that if they limit the amount of time residents can be out drinking in public, the less they will have to drink. In turn, it means they will be less likely to drive drunk. But as different cities across the country lengthen — or shorten — the hours in which bars can serve alcohol, the question arises: Do closing times affect DUI rates?

Survey Says…

It depends on whom you ask. The results are a bit mixed, and it’s hard to pinpoint whether an extended last call time is the cause for increased DUIs. A study done after a Minnesota city extended it bars’ last call time showed that the number of DUIs did increase. However, the blood alcohol content of those pulled over did not. The only thing that did increase, besides the DUI rate, is the number of police officers on the road. That skews the results to show an increase in the number of drunk drivers, even if it wasn’t there.

Moreover, the number of DUI arrests before the bars closed decreased. What may be a factor, though, is the difference in closing times between cities and counties. For instance, imagine if Fulton County bars closed at 2 a.m., but DeKalb County bars didn’t close until 3 a.m. There would be an increase in drinkers coming from Fulton, after which they will drive back home — increasing the number of drunk drivers.

Location, Location, Location

Different studies also looked at the different kinds of drinking venues in a given area. What they found was that areas with a greater concentration of alcohol-serving restaurants instead of bars saw more drunk drivers. This may be due to the fact that people go to bars with the intent of drinking, while those who visit restaurants may decide they want a drink once they get there. In addition, bars were more common than restaurants in lower-income areas, where residents may not have access to vehicles.

While DUIs may not be directly affected, other actions caused by drinking were. For instance, in Australia, a town restricted their closing call to 1:30 a.m. Patrons could still drink after that time, but no one else could enter the bars. That town saw its assault rate drop by over 30 percent. As a comparison, the next town over did not change their hours, and their assault rates remained unaffected.

While closing times may not affect DUIs, going out and drinking anywhere can. If you have been arrested for a DUI, you don’t have to face the charges alone. Contact Hawkins Law Firm today to speak with an experienced attorney about your case. Your initial consultation is free. Call today.

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