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Last drink initiatives on the rise.

A new technique for reducing drunk driving is quietly spreading among law enforcement agencies across the country, but restaurants and bars could find their reputations wrongly soiled if the systems are not handled properly.

Known as a last-drink initiative, the technique involves law enforcement officers asking suspected drunk drivers where they had their last drink. Depending on the state, restaurants and bars repeatedly mentioned are monitored more closely by law enforcement, placed on a list of establishments most often mentioned, warned or even fined. Such programs are in place in several states, including Colorado, Washington, Texas and, most recently, New Jersey. Others, such as Idaho and Utah, are expected to follow.

At best, the initiatives are low-cost and help reduce drunk driving. However, many operators question whether drivers who come from places such as strip clubs will tell the truth, or whether the heavily-inebriated even can report accurately, according to Sarah Longwell, managing editor at the American Beverage Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based licensed restaurant industry lobbying group. Further, guests who have been denied drinks might wrongly finger responsible establishments in revenge. Operators named by alleged drunk drivers cannot refute or confront their accusers, either.

"It is similar to wiretapping," says Longwell. "Even if there are good results, the process is bad. There's simply too much room for abuse and misinformation." ABI is monitoring the implementation and implications of last drink initiatives.
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Title Annotation:DRINK CULTURE
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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