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Tourism and drunk driving in wine country – expert provides sobering news

sonoma napa wine tours

As states continue to explore and pursue new and creative ways to increase tourism revenue, and increasingly look to wineries as tourism resource, a spokesman for the State of California provided some sobering news about tourism and drunk driving in wine country: namely, that a direct correlation exists between wine country regions and fatal drunk-driving accidents, Northern Virginia Daily reports.

When people think of wine country, they think of California. This is with good reason, as, according to information released by wineinstitute.org in 2010, California was home to nearly half of the bonded wineries in the USA. Unfortunately, while these wineries are often strong sources of tourist dollars, they also come with a price. The California Office of Traffic Safety oversees grants regarding highway safety, and also maintains regarding roadway safety, as well. Data collected by OTS revealed that a direct connection existed between higher concentrations of wineries and higher incidences of DUI accidents.

Famed “Napa County … is ranked No. 9 out of 58 counties as far as alcohol-involved victims killed and injured,” Chris Cochran, spokesman for OTS, told the Daily. Cochran also explained that it ranked the counties based upon daily vehicle miles traveled. The City of Napa fared even worse in OTS’s statistics. Out of 103 cities in its size class, Napa ranked in the top 10 for people killed or injured in DUI accidents.

Nationally-known Napa was not the only location with unfavorable numbers. Amador County, a rural area southeast of Sacramento that also has a sizeable wine-growing region, placed in the top five of the state’s 58 counties, according to OTS. Unlike well-developed Napa, a large number of rural, two-lane roads exacerbated Amador’s problems.

Cochran explained that free tasting rooms can be a key component of the problem. “Certainly where there are areas with a lot of tasting rooms, especially those that don’t charge for tasting,” problems can arise. “It only takes three, four, five of those visits to have enough tastings to make somebody pretty drunk.”

Steps have been taken to try to curtail the problem, but their usefulness only goes so far. The state government refuses to pay for signs advertising the wineries; however, owners are free to do so. Many wine country transportation providers offer limousine and bus tours of the wineries, but guests are often still drunk at the end of the tour, OTS found.

OTS also has funded TV commercials focusing on wine tasting safety. The agency’s sole “reason for being is to promote traffic safety and in this case, what we’re always saying is plan ahead and designate a sober driver … That doesn’t mean the least-drunk driver, but an actual sober driver,” Cochran explained to the Daily.

The key to avoiding problems with avoiding a problem with drunk driving is almost always one thing: planning. Whether you are visiting California’s beautiful and famous wine country, or planning a festive evening with friends, always make sure that either a sober person drives, or no one drives. However, if you do encounter an issue with a DUI charge, be sure to contact our knowledgeable DUI attorneys. Our Santa Rosa DUI attorneys are experienced and capable, and can help you navigate the difficult world of the law and the courts.

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