DWI and Sprawl

During a DWI voir dire I often remind jurors that drinking then driving is not illegal sans intoxicaiton. That is why every bar in Texas has a parking lot.

But should it take a trip in automobile to reach a bar? Does our sprawl/automobile based society create DWI accidents?

First, a travelogue. My wife and I spent last week at a conference in San Antonio, and then spent Saturday in Austin. In SA we stayed at the Emily Morgan. The first night my wife and I walked to Casa Rio, had some drinks with dinner, and walked back. Two nights later at the TCDLA member party we walked to the Hilton, drank at the very loud “English” pub Mad Dogs (do people really wear plaid skirts and listen to Beyonce in English pubs?) and walked back. On both occasions picking a designated driver or hailing a cab wasn’t even a consideration, we could walk so we did walk.

Why don’t cities and suburbs encourage such situations? In a sprawled out drive everywhere state like Texas DWI is inevitable when the majority of our population don’t live within walking distance of anything but houses. Yet the government gets a free pass for their poor zoning decisions. If people like to drink together in public, why does the government require them to drive to do so?

It’s not just alcohol that requires a car trip. In suburbia all forms of human interaction require an internal combustion engine. In Austin (south of downtown) the neighborhoods are dense and spill over into commercial areas. Saturday for lunch we met a friend at a hamburger joint and she walked from her house. I’ve lived around Dallas for most of my life, I have’t walked to a meal since I was 14. Today I live in Ennis, you could walk from my house for an hour before reaching a non residential structure.

What if we let the market decide where alcohol was served? What if we allowed bars (with or without parking lots), closer to residential areas? Let me adopt a common statist argument- if changing zoning laws prevented one DWI fatality, wouldn’t it be worth it?

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5 responses to “DWI and Sprawl”

  1. Stan says:

    In alot of older neighborhods in the Northeast you have that very phenomenon, the neighborhood bar. I remember one summer in college, while working at my grandmother’s house in Pittsburgh, walking from her house to a neighborhood bar about 4 blocks away. And there is one (or more) of those in every neighborhood.

  2. Derek says:

    Robert, I take it you never driven on McKinney Ave in Dallas? Tons of bars/restaurants/stores and housing choices from cheap to luxury. I’ve been to Ennis and like it, however it is a choice to live out past the sprawl.

  3. Paul-United Kingdom says:

    Ha! I have been to “Mad Dogs” in SA. One of the staff there asked me “Do you have pubs like this in England?” to which the answer was “No” as for not having pubs in your community I am surprised why you do not do this. My local pub is a ten minute walk from my home. Not only does it serve drinks and food on Sundays and Tuesdays there are quiz nights, on Monday a poker night on some nights they have dance lessons nights and when there are major sporting events such as soccer, rugby or cricket those are televised (can get packed for some of the soccer matches!)Also on Christmas and New Years eve they hold a party. It is also open on Christmas day for a lunch time session (good to get out of the house)

  4. JMC says:

    I live in Ennis as well. It’s a 6-7 block walk for me to Ennis Ave where there is El Mexicano Grill and Jimmy’s. Another block or two gets to the Firehouse Grill and/or Brown St. Cafe. Maybe moving closer in and getting an old house in the historic district is the answer.

    And I’m glad I found this blog (via Trey Garrison’s blog). Good to know there is a “local” resource when the state tries overreach.

  5. shelby says:

    Here at UNT they have a designated driver program…or they were trying too: http://media.www.ntdaily.com/media/storage/paper877/news/2004/07/22/CampusNews/Sga-Plans.Designated.Driver.Service-1891231.shtml
    I can’t find much more info about it. I think if MADD really wanted to stop drunk drivers they’d be outside the bar at 2am offering rides.

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