It is the anniversary of the day, Oct. 29, 2011, that we lost three young men to a night filled with choices — choices made by the boys to celebrate Halloween at a well-advertised party at the bar with a live DJ, free mystery drinks and a packed house of fellow party friends.
Yes, the boys chose to accept the offer of a fun-filled night of live music and costumes. Having 21 years under their belt, they would likely not be thinking about any serious consequences.
Bar owners do consider consequences. That is why, years ago, they fought and won the battle for regulating how they do business, and how the laws protect them from responsibility or repercussions when people get hurt or die after being entertained at their establishment.
North Dakota laws were changed to protect bars by restricting legal action to those not present in the driver’s car. When will the public decide there has been enough death and injury to finally change our laws and hold the bars responsible?
The bar owners planned this event well ahead. They planned the extra-large crowd responding to the advertising, the necessary amount of liquor to supply the free mystery drinks, the enticement of having a live DJ to draw the large crowd.
They don’t appear to have planned on having a security person at the door watching those who left the bar near closing time. The pictures on the DJ’s Facebook page did offer some insight to the bar’s atmosphere — standing room only, trays of colored drinks being passed around; quite a lot of money made for the bar owners that night.
Trevor, East and Chuck made choices and paid with their lives. Taylor is paying by serving jail time.
Yes, our boys made choices that night, and each of them paid a price. The only broken link in the chain, from my perspective, is that of the bar owners. Do they bear any weight of responsibility for providing an unbalanced atmosphere of partying with no checkpoint?
Yes, the boys were of age. The glaring, gaping hole of darkness lies in the fact that the establishment can circumvent any wrongdoing, unlike other states with dram shop laws that do hold bars responsible. While North Dakota shows increasing numbers of alcohol-related driving deaths over the past 10 years, Florida (with dram laws) shows a decrease.
I am told by the governor’s office and our legislators that there is nothing I can do until public opinion stands behind changing our current laws. Please be a part of the necessary change.
Laws in North Dakota state that if you are driving your own car and a drunken driver hits you and you get hurt or killed, then the bar is responsible. But if you are in the car of the drunken driver and get hurt or killed, the bar is not responsible.
So as you head out to celebrate Halloween, remember to have a sober driver and get home safe. Remember Trevor, East and Chuck.
(Deanne Erie is the mother of Trevor.)