To what extent should the law make us our brother’s keeper?

By law, bartenders can’t let an obviously drunk person leave their bar and drive a vehicle. A city councilor in Boston, Massachusetts wants to add another stop-gap to drunk driving by making sure that the keys of drunk people stay in the hands of the valets to which they have been entrusted.

It all started when Boston city council member Rob Consalvo was taken aback at a remark that was made by a convicted drunk driver during his sentencing hearing back in December 2010. Colin Ratiu, the hit-and-run driver, killed a Northeastern student in a 2010 accident that occurred after he left a concert. “He said that he was so drunk at the concert, he said he couldn’t believe that the valet there gave him keys,” said Consalvo. It was this that spurred him to action.

Councilor Consalvo then proposed the creation of a law that would empower valets to keep drunk drivers out of the driver’s seat. As of now it isn’t law for a valet to withhold the keys of an obviously intoxicated person, but it is a fairly common practice.

If a law were passed, then –just like bartenders and restaurant managers– valets would be required to keep intoxicated persons from getting behind the wheel. They would also require training on the signs and signals that might telegraph to them that the valet patron is drunk.

An informal poll of Bostonians by Boston’s WHDH 7News found them in support of Consalvo’s proposal. “The responsibility should still stay with the establishment, the valet parker. Just like the bartender,” said Michael Morrison.

Consalvo agrees: “If they are giving keys away to drunk drivers and those drunk drivers are killing people, I would argue that they are liable anyway. So, we’re not looking at the valet companies as the criminals here or the ones we’re targeting, we’re doing opposite. We’re saying, ‘Let’s get creative, you partner with us as a city, work with us to be our last line of defense to keep these cars off the road.”

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