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Ending SC mini-bottle reign has not reduced drunk driving

South Carolina's constitutional amendment ending the required use of mini-bottles for serving alcohol has not reduced drunk driving in the state. Fatal drunk-driving crashes have increased since 2006 when free pouring from full-sized bottles in serving establishments became legal.

Before 2006, South Carolina had the unique requirement that alcoholic beverages had to be served in mini-bottles similar to the type used by airlines. The prohibition against free-pouring made it difficult, if not impossible, to serve drinks containing several liquors such as a Long Island Iced Tea.

More significantly, mini-bottle drinks in this state contained 1.7 ounces of liquor compared to 1.25 ounces or less in other states. Out-of-state tourists were not accustomed to receiving these more potent drinks, which put them at risk for being involved in a drunk-driving crash.

South Carolina had the highest ranking in the nation for alcohol-related driving accident deaths before the free-pouring ban was lifted. Therefore, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the South Carolina Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Authorities joined the hospitality industry to support a 2004 referendum ending the 30-year prohibition on free-pouring liquor. Voters approved the referendum amending the constitution. The ban was lifted on New Year's Day 2006. Mini-bottles are still allowed but not required.

Like the rest of the country, overall auto fatalities declined in South Carolina since 2006. However, over 50 percent of these fatal crashes in South Carolina are alcohol-related, which is among the highest in the United States. The average number of drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents also has increased slightly.

Regardless of enforcement and educational efforts concerning drunk driving, it is likely that this problem will still impact drivers in South Carolina. A driver or pedestrian injured by a drunk driver should seek advice concerning the driver's responsibility, dram shop liability by the establishment serving the alcohol. Victims may have a right to compensation for medical treatment, lost wages and other losses.

Source: The Post and Courier, "Scrapping minibottles in S.C. was supposed to reduce drunk driving and raise money-it hasn't," David Slade, April 21, 2013

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