Drunk driving is an activity that injures and kills innocent victims. The good news is that the California legislature is looking to do something about it.

Assembly Bill No. 711 was passed unanimously in the State Senate and became law on January 1. It allows beer manufacturers to provide free or discounted rides to consumers free or discounted rides with the purpose of promoting public safety. Codes and vouchers can be given to consumers, but the law makes it clear that they cannot be given out as incentives. Therefore, the free ride cannot be tied to the purchase of an alcoholic beverage. This prevents beer companies from providing incentives to breweries when they sell beer to consumers.

Under the law, breweries, importers and other types of beer manufacturers will be allowed to provide free or discounted rides home for intoxicated customers. The rides may be provided through taxi companies, transportation services or other types of ride companies. Beer and wine wholesalers would be prohibited from contributing to the costs of the free rides or promoting free rides in any way.

Before January 1, the only time beer and wine manufacturers were allowed to offer free ground transportation was for invitation-only events, such as parties and concerts. The amended state law expands this to include all situations – not just private events.

Rideshare services such as Lyft and Uber support the law, but of course, there are opponents as well. Alcohol Justice, an anti-alcohol organization, claims that the free vouchers do not address the situation of alcohol intoxication. People are encouraged to overconsume and drink in a dangerous manner, rather than avoid alcohol misuse in the first place.

Assembly Bill No. 711 was passed because the benefits of having a designated driver for someone who has had too much drink will outweigh the negatives. The law is in place to promote public safety, and given that 28 people in the United States die due to drunk driving every day, it makes sense to offer free rides. Ultimately, it gives alcohol drinkers more of an incentive to not get behind the wheel.

Not a New Idea

This may seem like a novel idea, but California is actually far behind when it comes to implementing such a law. Currently, 44 other states and the District of Columbia already have similar laws in place allowing alcohol manufacturers to pay for free or discounted rides. So until January 1, California was actually in the minority.

Now that California is now part of the mainstream when it comes to this law, the state can expect to see partnerships between breweries and taxi and rideshare companies. For example, Lyft and Budweiser recently ended a partnership that provided more than 64,000 free rides to alcohol consumers across the United States as part of its Give a Damn campaign. California could see similar partnerships now that this law has been passed.

California Drinking and Driving Statistics

Drinking and driving is not only dangerous, but it is also against the law. Yet many drivers continue to engage in this activity. Among young people ages 15 to 24, impaired driving is the leading cause of death.

In 2015, there were 914 traffic fatalities caused by impaired drivers. In 2014, that number was 876, which means that 2015 saw a 4.3 percent increase in impaired driving. Impaired drivers are defined as motorists with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.

In 2014, the alcohol-impaired driving fatality rate in California was 0.26. The national average is 0.33. Of the five largest states in terms of total traffic fatalities – California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania – California has the best rate.

About Nadrich & Cohen, LLP

Nadrich & Cohen applauds the legislature’s passage of Bill No. 711. We have represented many drunk-driving accident victims and their families over the last 27 years. We are an active supporter of MADD chapters throughout California.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident caused by an intoxicated driver, call the California auto accident lawyers at Nadrich & Cohen, LLP. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call us now at 1-800-718-4658 for a free and confidential consultation.