Should bars be held responsible for wrong-way drivers?

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The Wrong-Way Driver Task Force formed by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is taking a closer look at how Valley bars may be contributing to wrong- way wrecks.

The task force, which meets weekly, is exploring a number of solutions to the wrong-way driver issue, including having the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Liquor investigate establishments that may be tied to a wrong-way crash.

This type of investigation was used in the context of a wrong-way crash when a male driver killed two sisters while traveling the wrong way on I-17. Task force chair, Alberto Gutier, says investigators found evidence at the scene of an April 14th wrong-way crash on I-17 that revealed where the driver may have become drunk before entering the freeway.

“They must have found, again, a receipt or something or a charge or checked out where the person was drinking,” says Gutier. “I hope that we can do that more with other cases.”

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Holding establishments accountable would take more investigative work where possible and more pressure on bars to watch how much they serve patrons or face consequences. If investigators can determine a wrong-way driver had been to a restaurant or bar, the establishment’s record and license will be under scrutiny, and they may face citations.

It is already against the law for an establishment to knowingly serve a customer who has had too much to drink, but the task force hopes this enforcement used as part of wrong-way investigations may send a message to businesses about their role in preventing deadly accidents.

Gutier adds that many restaurants and bars operate responsibly. The task force also considers infrastructure and technology improvements like freeway cameras and signs and is currently working on a media campaign aimed at awareness.

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