Drunken driving inexcusable, even if it hurts the economy

If the French wine industry has their way, drunken drivers will be more prevalent on France’s “routes.” After a 15 percent sales drop in wine sold at restaurants, the French wine industry is blaming Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin for making safety on France’s roads and highways a priority. The industry is claiming that people are so worried about getting a DUI, they are abstaining from a second or third glass of wine while they are out to eat, and this hurts industry sales. While it is unfortunate that the wine business is suffering losses, but it is rather asinine to take counter measures that will result in drunk driving.

When Raffarin entered office last year, he made certain to follow through on his intentions of making road safety an important issue. According to the Associated Press, police checkpoints and harsher punishments are a few of the ways that Raffarin’s intentions are being enforced. Pascal Bobillier-Monnot, director of France’s National Confederation of AOC Wine and Wine-brandy producers, or CNAOC, told AP, “People are so afraid of the police these days that they’re not drinking wine at all.”

The legal blood alcohol level for Europe is .05 percent. The United States used to have a blood alcohol level of .01 percent, but 39 states including Florida have raised that level to .08 percent.

Since Raffarin has been the prime minister, AP reports that road deaths have fallen more than 20 percent in the first 10 months of 2003 –a figure that is arguably more significant than the drop of wine sales.

“The enforcement effort and the governments’ rhetoric have led to a drop in wine consumption in France,” Bobillier-Monnot told AP. The CNAOC, along with other wine – production interest groups, are retaliating against the French government with plans for a campaign. According to AP, this campaign will attempt to persuade motorists that not drinking alcohol is not the remedy for drunken driving and accidents. As a part of the campaign, these groups will distribute alcohol breath tests to restaurants across France.

If anything, these portable “breathalyzers” should further deter wine drinkers from driving after alcohol consumption because they think they are still within safe limits.

Raffarin should be commended, not chastised, for his efforts in lowering the amount of accidents and deaths related to alcohol. It is blatantly irresponsible for a business to place profits in front of its consumers’ safety.