Liquor Privatization Saves Lives?

A little more than one year ago, Washington state privatized its liquor stores (and liquor wholesale operations). As we’ve noted before, both sales and tax revenue increased under privatization. Now, there’s another trend showing the benefits of privatization: DUI accidents and arrests have actually declined.

Data from the Washington State Patrol show that DUI collisions declined by 9 percent over the previous 12 months. That translates to 229 fewer accidents in the course of a year. DUI arrests declined by nearly the same 9 percent.

Our friends at the Washington Policy Center comment that the trend doesn’t mean that privatization makes us safer, but it certainly squashes one of the major scare tactics used by opponents.

Pennsylvanians across the state will recall the emotionally manipulative, over-the-top TV and radio ads run by the UFCW (the union representing government-run liquor store employees) implying that letting private stores sell wine and spirits would result in more deaths from drunk driving. The ads were so ridiculous—and filled with flawed statistics—that folks around the nation began laughing at Pennsylvania.

The truth is, Pennsylvania ranks higher than the national average in alcohol-related traffic fatalities per capita, higher than the national average in accidents related to DUIs according to MADD, and sits in the middle of the pack in total DUI rates and a whole host of other measures.

The evidence from Washington should be the final nail in the coffin of the absurd notion that liquor privatization will jeopardize public safety.