Should Valets Be Responsible for Policing Drunks?

One Boston politician is promoting new legislation that would call on parking attendants to keep drunk drivers off the roads.

City Councilor Rob Consalvo has proposed an ordinance that would require valet parking companies to withhold car keys from patrons who appear too drunk to drive and would allow the cars of those deemed intoxicated be kept in their parking lots overnight at no additional charge.

Many valet companies have already created similar rules of their own independently, though no mandatory, uniform policy currently exists.

The inspiration for the idea came when Consalvo read about a 23-year-old man killed in a November 2010 hit-and-run. The driver in that accident, a real class act, told police after his arrest that he was "blackout drunk'' at the time of the crash, adding that he "could not believe" a parking attendant had given him his keys to drive.

While, on the one hand, no one would argue that taking additional steps to keep drunks off the roads is a good thing, some are concerned that the new legislation could make valets legally liable in the event of an accident, should they fail to detect that a patron has had too much to drink.

On top of that, one has to speculate that most inebriated customers would not take kindly to being labeled "tipsy" in the first place, let alone having a random valet tell them they were too bombed to drive.

NPR's Morning Edition featured commentary from Dave Andelman of the Restaurant and Business Alliance, who argued that requiring valets to undergo additional "drunk-spotting" training and prompting valet companies to buy more insurance would drastically drive up parking costs.

And, he adds, it sends the wrong message to drunk drivers.

"You are sending a message to the individual, 'We'll take care of you like a baby,' not, 'You're an adult, and act like an adult.' It's not just nanny-state politics - it's crazy politics."

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