Montana is a big state. Lots of small towns. Lots of isolated bars. People have to drive quite a ways sometimes to get a drink. And the west is famous, of course, for its “belly up to the bar” attitude.
So perhaps it comes as no surprise that when somebody says tougher DUI laws are bad for businesses, it’s a Republican from Montana. And that he is a Tea Party-supported Republican. One of that crazy freshmen crop we haven’t quite gotten used to yet.
A Tea Partier and a bar owner, no less.
Alan Hale, a GOP lawmaker who owns a bar in Basin, MT complained about the effects of tougher DUI laws:
“These DUI laws are not doing our small businesses in our state any good at all. They are destroying them. They are destroying a way of life that has been in Montana for years and years.”
Hale’s assault on clear thinking is so outrageous that ConsumerReports.org was prompted to question whether or not the video was an April Fool’s Joke. No, it’s no joke: It’s a Tea Partier.
They used to burn witches too. “That’s how we’ve always done it” has never been a compelling excuse for anything. Hale apparently thinks people have a right to have a drink (or ten) – and then drive home again – but there are other people on the road as well, and they have the right to not be killed by a drunken driver.
Hale is correct in saying that Montanans either have to drive or hitchhike; the state’s size dictates against the existence of adequate public transportation and access to cabs. As I said, it’s a big state. I’ve been there many times myself. But inconvenience isn’t an excuse to put anyone’s life at risk.
It seems pretty cut and dried. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) agrees: MADD activist Becky Sturdevant says,
“His comments are completely out of sync with public safety and reality.”
MADD National President Laura Dean-Mooneys, was quoted by AOL as saying, “He needs to do a little more fact checking before he makes statements like that and insults those who have lost loved ones to drunk driving.”
MADD is not the only one who thinks so. As it happens, some bar owners do too.
KULR8, “The Spirit of Montana” reports that “State Representative Alan Hale’s now somewhat infamous speech against DUI laws have become a popular topic of conversation for local bar owners.” The station cites the opinion of George Moncure, owner of Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company: “I think what I found as odd is that a legislator would say something so retro in thinking.” And he seems to think most small businesses would disagree with Hale:
“I think Montana needs to join the rest of America with tougher DUI laws. I think most people believe that. I think most small businesses believe that.”
Montana has been lax in dealing with drunk drivers for years. And it was the proposal of tougher laws that prompted Hale’s outburst: a new bill that would allow prosecutors to take the last 10 years of a driver’s record into account when prosecuting a case, instead of the five years currently allowed.
As ConsumerReports.org concludes, Alan Hale is the April Fool. As they also observe,
April kicks off Alcohol Awareness Month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the sobering reality that one-third of all traffic fatalities involve impaired drivers.
Its clear driving while intoxicated is bad for the public. It is equally clear that Tea Party thinking is just as dangerous.
America, just say NO!