In the wake of the cowardly and deadly ambush on Dallas City and DART officers on July 7th, there has been a remarkable outpouring of support for the police in the Metroplex. The community has raised funds for the families of the 5 officers who were killed, as well as for the 9 wounded officers and 2 injured civilians.
These fundraisers have taken a variety of shapes and sizes. In troubled times, these good works stand as a testament to the spirit and goodwill of the community towards those who keep us safe. However, not all fundraising activities are created equal.
While there are no shortage of articles arguing about which groups most effectively distribute the resources they collect to the victims, scant attention has been paid to the means that people are employing to raise money. For instance, Crashed Toys Dallas, is holding a Back the Blue Fundraiser this Saturday. On paper, that's a great idea, but there's aspect of this fundraiser that has me scratching my head.
Problems with the Back the Blue Fundraiser
Crashed Toys Dallas holds a gathering every Saturday, which is open to the public and promises beer and bikes. Saturday, the 23rd of July, they intend to accept donations and donate a portion of apparel sales to the Dallas Fallen Police Officer Foundation.
This is commendable. Organizations in our community are renowned for their ability to help fellow Texans in need. Few folks deserve our generosity more than those who put their lives on the line to protect us, but were injured or never returned home due the acts of a madman.
The problem with this weekend's Crashed Toys Dallas event is not that they are raising money for a worthy cause, but in order to draw more people, they are offering 25¢ beers from 2-3 pm and then again from 6-7 pm. This is a drastic reduction from the usual price of $2.
Being that this is North Texas, and the temperature will be well over 100°, it is doubtful that too many people will be walking to this event. So in the name of raising money for fallen police officers, the organizers think it's a good idea to mix ridiculously cheap alcohol (for a limited time) with an event that most people are driving to?
In essence, this event will honor fallen and injured police officers by creating the perfect conditions for Dallas police officers to have to be on the lookout for drunk drivers.
Given that in 2015 there were 2,304 alcohol-related crashes in Dallas County, which caused almost 1,200 injuries and 83 deaths, drunk driving isn't a problem we are speculating might exist in our community. It is something real that our police officers contend with every day.
Last Call Phenomenon and Cheap Beer
Cheap beer alone is enough to encourage irresponsible behavior, like drunk driving. After all, there are a fair number of people who show up with the anticipation that a beer will cost $2, only to find that for one hour only, they can get 8 beers for the same price. In a social environment, do folks pocket the extra $1.75, or donate it to the Dallas Fallen Police Officer Foundation? Undoubtedly, a few will.
On the other hand, it doesn't take a crystal ball to foresee that a few knuckleheads will have the epiphany that they can now get 8 beers for $2. Given the nature of the event, an outdoor function, on a hot day, many of the signs that responsible servers use to slow down or cut off service are muted by weather conditions. Changes in skin pigment, slightly slurred speech, and unsteadiness on one's feet are also signs of heat stress, which on a hot day, outside in Dallas, is not uncommon.
Then there is the issue of offering beers for a quarter each, but only for one hour. It is well known that drunk driving accidents peak in Texas between 2 am and 3 am. The reason for this is that the bars have to stop serving and intoxicated patrons are kicked out into the streets. Certainly, a fair portion of the intoxicated drivers will be patrons who were at the bar all evening, but there are also a significant number of people who show up around 1 am and drink as much as they can, as fast as possible before the bar has to stop serving. These drinkers feel the added pressure of being up against a clock.
This is particularly common among service industry workers. Contrary to what many may believe, a lot of people who work in restaurants also want to go out on Friday or Saturday night, just like everyone else. The problem for them is that they have to make a living by doing their jobs first. This means that their Friday and Saturday nights often start anywhere from 11:30 to 1:30 in the evening. It doesn't mean that these folks don't drink as much as people who don't drink on the weekends, they just have to do it a lot faster. Part of this explains why if you look around a restaurant while you're out, when you're looking at the staff, you're looking at a group of people with a disproportionate number of DUIs. I'm not picking on folks who work in restaurants, I did it for years myself, but I have yet to work in a restaurant where at least one person didn't have an ignition interlock on their car.
For those that are skeptical that drinking against a clock contributes to more DUIs and alcohol-related injuries, they need only look at the numbers to see a massive spike in drunk driving accidents between 7 pm and 8 pm. It's not hard to figure out the reason why. For establishments that run a Happy Hour, most of these promotions end at 7 pm. Folks are again drinking against a clock, trying to consume what they can before the price of drinks go up.
Knowing all of this, what sense does it make to combine ridiculously cheap alcohol with drinking against a clock? Between 2 pm and 3 pm, as well as between 6 pm and 7 pm, Crashed Toys Dallas is going to create a very dangerous situation. Should a 200 lb. man decide to put his $2 to the "best possible use" and consume 8 beers in either of these windows, that person will end up at 2.25 times the legal limit. Some of the symptoms of this level of intoxication include gross motor impairment, blurred vision, loss of balance, and potential nausea.
Artificially Cheap Beer Encourages DUIs and Doesn't Honor Police Officers.
If someone gets behind the wheel of a car after spending the $2, the consequences for that person and for anyone who shares the road with them could be disastrous. At best, they're going to require a police officer to offer them some recovery time in the local jail. At worst, the police officers whom this event intends to honor will have to spend their day responding to serious accidents.
Objecting to this promotion is not about objecting to adults having a good time. At Grossman Law Offices few of us are teetotalers. However, one doesn't have to be an anti-drinking zealot to see that combining ridiculously cheap drinks and a race against the clock is a really bad idea.
Every event and establishment that serves alcohol says that they serve alcohol responsibly and I have no reason to believe that Crashed Toys Dallas is any different. Yet, in the hundreds of alcohol-related injury lawsuits that Grossman Law Offices has handled over the years, the vast majority of the drunk drivers who hurt someone weren't drinking at home and then driving drunk to the store for a pack of smokes, rather they were over-served by an event or establishment that claimed to be serving responsibly.
We have to ask ourselves who shows up to an event for 25¢ beers? The answer is most likely broke young adults and people who want to see how much beer they can drink for $2 or $4. I don't begrudge anyone looking for a cheap drunk, but are we really to believe that someone who has spent 50¢ on 2 beers isn't going to part with the other 2 quarters in their pockets and have 4? Is it really unforeseeable that folks will try and drink at a faster rate in order to avoid the higher prices once these Happy Hours are coming to a close?
Certainly, Crashed Toys Dallas has the freedom to price the beer served at their events however they like. At they same time they also have a duty to serve alcohol in a responsible manner. One only has to do a little digging to stumble across the mayhem that can result when alcohol is sold at artificially low prices.
Perhaps one of the most infamous examples is 10¢ beer night at a Cleveland Indians baseball game in 1974. Drunk fans ended up causing a riot that pitted the stadium crowd, armed with make-shift weapons, squaring off against both bat-wielding baseball teams. Eventually, the Cleveland Police Department had to mobilize in force and break up the riot. I'm not suggesting a riot will happen at this party, but at the same time it illustrates that when alcohol is sold at artificially low prices, bad things tend to happen.
Raising money for fallen officers, especially now is a noble and lofty goal to be applauded. However, Police Chief Brown asked for more than donations in the wake of the police shootings, he asked for the support of the community. Setting up conditions to make policing more difficult doesn't strike me as the kind of support Chief of Police Brown is looking for from the community. Hopefully, crashed Crashed Toys Dallas puts as much effort into responsible service of really cheap alcohol as they do into promoting their beer deal.