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Massachusetts recently passed what is known as Melanie’s Law, named for a teen who was killed by a repeat drunk driver in 2003. This law toughens the penalty for drunk drivers in that state – incresing the penalties for refusing a breathalyzer, roadside sobriety tests or driving with a suspended license after a DUI.

Attorney Edward P. Ryan Jr. provides an introspective op-ed in the Boston Globe. He argues that stiffer DUI penalties are not the only ways to deter drunk driving and focuses on the state’s premises liability law.

Mr. Ryan notes:

If we really want to enact legislation aimed at drinking and driving we need to focus on all aspects of the problem. The special statute that makes it more difficult to bring legal action against taverns, bars, restaurants, golf clubs, and other licensed establishments should be abolished. In its place we should write legislation that creates a presumption of responsibility if the injured party proves that the drunk was served at the establishment. We should write legislation that makes those who either serve alcohol or allow persons to drink alcohol on their premises liable to victims who are injured or killed by persons drinking to the point of intoxication at these locations. Legislation could require license holders, distributors, and manufacturers to air public service announcements warning of the dangers of excessive consumption, the potential criminal penalties, and the availability of substantial civil remedies. Make the purchase of liability insurance mandatory.

An interesting and valid argument.

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