This article is written on behalf of Stringini & Garvey, P.C.

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol use leads to 2.5 million deaths globally. In the U.S. alone, alcohol consumption costs citizens $223 billion each year in missed work, medical expenses, litigation, and criminal justice costs. Preventing the excessive use of alcohol leads to fewer D.U.I.s and keeps roads safer. The kinds of policies that can prevent these accidents have been well-documented for years. Substance abuse treatment, alcohol abuse prevention programs, and limiting the availability of alcohol, while costly and unpopular, are the most effective at preventing alcohol abuse and D.U.I.s.

According to a 2003 Illinois Household Survey, 1.5 million Illinois residents were in need of drug and alcohol abuse addiction treatment. Unfortunately, this treatment is costly, and an estimated 35% of Illinois residents in need may not have the money available to pay for treatment services themselves. These services place a toll on Medicaid and other government funded programs.

 

 

Alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs are not the only way policy-makers can prevent D.U.I.s and excessive alcohol consumption.

For instance, one of the most effective ways to prevent alcohol abuse and D.U.I.s is to increase the tax on alcohol, thus raising the price. Another way is to limit the locations where alcohol can be purchased. In Ontario, for instance, alcohol is sold primarily through stores operated through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. In 2013-2014, alcohol sales in Ontario generated 1.74 billion in tax revenue and this money went to fund health care (including drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs), education, and infrastructure.  Yet, the sale of alcohol through these government stores is rather unpopular, and the Toronto Star reports that beer and wine will soon be available for sale in certain supermarkets in Ontario. Yet, even if beer and wine is sold through grocery stores in the future, it will continue to be highly regulated and highly taxed in Ontario. The cost of alcohol in Ontario far exceeds the cost of alcohol in most areas of the U.S.

Because raising the cost of alcohol and limiting access in the U.S. remains so unpopular, often legislators are required to implement weaker policies in order to prevent drug and alcohol abuse.

So, what alcohol prevention policies work?

Research published in the journal, Addiction found that decreasing the number of places where alcohol could be sold was among the most effective alcohol and D.U.I prevention policy. Other policies that also worked included laws that restricted the sale and distribution of alcohol to minors. Using 0.08 as the legal blood alcohol concentration was also effective in preventing D.U.I.s. Roadside sobriety checkpoints were also effective. Open container laws also reduced the number of D.U.I.s.

Many of these policies are currently in place in Illinois. For instance, D.U.I. sobriety checkpoints are allowed in the state, and the current BAC limit is 0.08. All states place limits on the availability of alcohol to minors. Even a child’s parents are not allowed to circumvent Illinois’s policy on minors’ alcohol use. In Illinois, parents who purchase alcohol for their minor children can be charged with a class A misdemeanor. If alcohol leads to the death of a child, parents can be charged with a class 4 felony.

Yet, laws restricting alcohol use won’t be effective if treatment isn’t available to those suffering from alcoholism.

While it is clear that legislators need to balance public freedom with public protection, as it stands, willingness to spend more money on prevention often stands in the way of implementation of effective policy.

Being accused or charged with any type of crime is a serious offense. Call Stringini & Garvey, P.C. for aggressive legal representation in Illinois at 630-834-9595.