Asheville’s eclectic charms have allowed it to maintain a consistent position at the top of lifestyle lists in recent years. Our city is frequently named one of the best places to visit or live in travel, food, and other publications. Western North Carolina’s rapid population growth is evidence of this interest in our area. But the rise in tourism and new residents has also correlated to an alarmingly high number of Driving While Intoxicated arrests.
Readers who know Asheville as Beer City are probably unsurprised to hear that Buncombe County leads the state in these types of arrests. Drunk driving accidents are a big threat to the people who travel and live in and around Asheville. Here’s a look at why drunk driving is such a hazard and what can be done about it.
Irresponsible serving practices at bars and restaurants
Asheville is home to dozens of breweries, and the surrounding counties are home to even more. The city of Asheville alone has the highest number of breweries per person than any other city in the United States.
Beer is integral to the culture of Western North Carolina; it attracts new people to the area and often convinces them to stay. Wherever you go on any given night, you’ll see the high demand for alcohol. Bars and restaurants are happy to oblige.
People who are drinking and enjoying themselves sometimes don’t see the line between enough and too much, particularly if they are drinking craft beers with high alcohol content. North Carolina state law places a responsibility on bars and restaurants to stop serving customers once they become intoxicated. The law imposes liability on establishments if a customer they overserve causes damages or injuries in a drunk driving accident or other accident resulting from their intoxication.
Despite North Carolina’s dram shop law, bars and restaurants continue to serve customers past the point where they can get home without hurting themselves or other people. In an area where most residents drive, this can result in disaster – especially when that area is as pedestrian and bicycle-friendly as Asheville. Bicyclists and Pedestrians are already vulnerable to accidents, and even more likely to suffer serious injuries in drunk driving accidents.
Public pressure is often the only way to convince businesses to stop harmful practices like overserving customers. Outreach campaigns like Serve Safe, Drink Safe encourage bars and other businesses to take part in curbing drunk driving by serving customers responsibly.
Lack of enforcement of the overserving of alcohol
North Carolina alcohol laws require businesses to train their employees on how to spot when a customer has had too much, how to curtail the effects of excessive drinking, and other methods for limiting customers’ drinking. In theory, this requirement, along with dram shop liability, should prevent drunk driving. However, the numbers speak for themselves. In 2015, 1 in 5 fatal accidents in Buncombe County involved alcohol use. In previous years, that number has been as high as 1 in 3. The problem of overserving alcohol is so severe at some bars and restaurants that these businesses have reputations for being host to medical emergencies, violence and other problems that arise from heavy drinking.
Buncombe County’s effort at curtailing drunk driving has focused heavily on targeting drunk drivers and aggressively prosecuting DWI offenses. While this has certainly encouraged drivers to think twice before driving drunk, more proactive measures could also be invaluable. Increased enforcement of existing regulations on serving alcohol at bars and restaurants could keep even more drunk drivers off the roads simply by making it harder for them to become too intoxicated to drive in the first place. Preventative action like this could make for safer communities without risking accidents and injuries.
Getting help after an Asheville drunk driving accident
It’s not hard to see the connection between a culture of beer enthusiasts and drunk driving accidents. Asheville residents and tourists alike are victims of alcohol-related car accidents.
Drunk driving accident victims are more likely to suffer serious injuries and even disability than victims in accidents where no alcohol is involved. After drinking, drivers cannot react to hazards as quickly as when they are sober. Drunk drivers often cannot brake or take other evasive measures in time to lessen the impact of a collision. The force of these accidents is often enough to cause catastrophic injuries to other motorists involved. Injured victims’ loved ones suffer as well; the financial and emotional costs of caring for a loved one, even temporarily, can disrupt a family’s stability for years to come.
While Asheville’s numbers of DWI arrests and related accidents have decreased since 2015, the numbers are still too high. Hundreds of people are involved in drunk driving accidents each year in Buncombe County alone, causing hardship to families throughout the area. While drunk drivers are certainly responsible for their own actions, businesses that serve alcohol to intoxicated customers should also be held accountable for irresponsible practices.
Our experienced personal injury team is ready to help you pursue your drunk driving accident claim. In addition to seeking compensation from negligent drivers, we will also assess whether you have a dram shop claim against a bar or restaurant. Cases involving complex injuries and multiple defendants are often too difficult for drunk driving victims to handle alone. Call our Asheville personal injury firm today to schedule a free initial consultation, where we will assess your case and help you determine a path forward.