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Some Central Texans concerned over new alcohol to go law

Posted at 5:05 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 18:32:19-04

TEMPLE, TX — Kandi Wiley can still recall the day her family’s life did a 180-degree turn in 2007. Most parents that lose a child always do.

“The other driver was a 48-year-old female, died at the scene, and Janakae lived for four days before being declared brain dead,” said Wiley.

That other driver was drunk, nearly three times over the legal limit when she struck Janakae’s truck racing down a Lubbock road at nearly 100 mph. Turns out, Janakae was only on the road that night because she was a designated driver for some classmates at Texas Tech University.

Kandi has made it a priority to share her daughter’s story to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving. She doesn’t think making alcohol-to-go permanent will do much to help the larger crisis.

“Why tempt society even further when it’s already an issue. There are already too many lives lost and affected daily by drunk driving,” said Kandi.

While most bills stall out, or at least receive heavy scrutiny during their first introduction to the legislature, alcohol-to-go flew through both houses and was signed by Governor Abbott just last week.

For the past year, 25 News has covered the enormous loss suffered by the restaurant industry because of the pandemic. To-go alcohol sales helped keep a lot of smaller operations afloat, if only barely.

But not everyone is so keen on it sticking around for the long haul.

“We’ve changed almost 80 years of how we’re doing business with alcohol practically overnight,” says Nicole Holt, the CEO of Texans for Safe and Drug Free Youth.

She says while it may have made sense to help restaurants survive the pandemic, it now opens up a host of possibilities for abuse, especially for those under 21.

“Currently, there’s about 55,000 brick and mortar retail outlets that sell alcohol, including bars and restaurants. Now that we made it possible for you to deliver it, or do curbside, we’re now literally talking about millions of places where young people can gain access,” said Holt.

Delivery drivers are supposed to ask for I.D. during a drop off, and restaurants need to seal a drink before it leaves their establishment.

But Holt wonders if the TABC and local law enforcement really have the manpower to ensure that always happens.

“How do we do that enforcement if someone comes to the door of your home and delivers it?”

Several months ago, her group called for the formation of a state task force to address some of their concerns. So far, it hasn’t happened, although some lawmakers seemed open to the idea initially.

According to TXSDY, more than 3,600 people were killed in traffic crashes in Texas in 2019, with 37% caused by alcohol. This number far exceeds the nationwide percentage of 28%.

According to TxDOT, that same year 27% of drivers in alcohol-related crashes were age 25 or under.