The emergence of ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft has made it easier than ever to not get behind the wheel after a night of drinking. Particularly in cities like Los Angeles where public transportation is limited, the availability of ride-sharing companies has significantly lowered the amount of drunk drivers on the road. And now, finally, California is amending an alcohol law that should have been a common sense decision a long time ago.
The growing popularity of taprooms and brewpubs has led to a significant increase in beer tastings at breweries. Under previous California law, breweries were not permitted to cover the cost of transportation for patrons leaving the brewery after a tour and tasting. The logic was that breweries, and other alcohol manufacturers, offering perks such as free rides would lead to overconsumption, and in turn, more alcohol-related accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
Fortunately, the California legislature has realized the flawed rationale behind the law. As of the New Year, breweries will be able to “provide directly to consumers free or discounted rides through taxicabs, transportation network companies, or any other ride service for the purpose of furthering public safety,” according to the amendment. Ride-sharing services can potentially be expensive, and cost may influence inebriated patrons’ decision on whether or not to drive. The new amendment effectively eliminates that consideration.
However, the amendment was not without its opponents. Alcohol Justice, a San Rafael-based nonprofit, vehemently fought the bill. The group opposes legislation that it claims promotes the “alcohol industry’s harmful practices.” The association’s research manager, Carson Benowitz-Fredericks, asserts that the bill may lead to patrons taking advantage of free rides to go to another brewery or bar, encouraging overconsumption, according to The Sacramento Bee. Reverend James Butler, executive director of the California Council on Alcohol Problems, also argues that patrons may abuse free rides and drink more. “If they get free transportation, maybe instead of two beers they have six,” Butler told The Sacramento Bee. “And when people over-consume alcohol, they make bad decisions.”
The reverend’s argument appears to be a bit of a stretch. An overwhelming majority of states already allow breweries to cover the costs of transportation from their taprooms and brewpubs and these issues have not occured. Yes, alcohol can lower drinkers’ inhibitions, but offering free rides eradicates the worst bad decision: drinking and driving.