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Minnesota Alcohol Regulator Receives 9th Annual Leadership in Alcohol Regulation Award

The Center for Alcohol Policy is pleased to announce that Carla Cincotta, Director of the Alcohol and Gambling Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, is the recipient of the Ninth Annual Leadership in Alcohol Regulation Award.  

The award, which recognizes a specific program, agency or person who oversees the alcohol industry and promotes public health and safety, was announced yesterday evening during the Center’s 14th Annual Alcohol Law and Policy Conference.   

Within the Alcohol and Gambling Division, Director Cincotta has worked as a Special Agent, Senior Special Agent, and Special Agent in Charge, where she directed, coordinated and reviewed investigations to ensure proper regulation and enforcement of state and federal laws.

Before joining the division, Director Cincotta served as a police officer and investigator in the Stillwater Police Department for 10 years, at which she made it a priority to educate the alcohol industry about Minnesota’s liquor laws to ensure proper understanding and compliance, and where violations occurred, Carla aggressively enforced the law in a fair manner.

Over the past year and a half, Carla worked closely with industry members to minimize the economic effects of closures while protecting public health and safety by ensuring that the closure laws were uniformly observed. Carla effectively expanded the capability of the agency in a cost-effective manner and established productive relationships with industry members to ensure that Minnesota’s liquor laws are followed.

The Center could not be more honored to have presented this award to Director Cincotta. Please join us in congratulating her for her years of service and dedication to the industry and the public health and safety of all Americans.  

Report Highlights Open Container Laws as Important Countermeasure Against Drunk Driving, Raises Safety Questions in Response to Recent Alcohol-To-Go Legislation

Today the Center for Alcohol  Policy released a new white paper outlining the legislative history of open container laws in America, how they act as an important countermeasure in the fight to prevent drunk driving, and also addresses the significant safety questions raised by recent alcohol-to-go legislation following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report was commissioned by the Center and authored by J.T. Griffin, principal at Griffin Strategies, LLC and former Chief Government Affairs Officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It follows the publication of the Center’s recent report on the legislative history of drunk driving in America also authored by Griffin.

Open container laws require alcohol beverages to be sealed and stored out of the passenger area in vehicles. Griffin’s latest report provide legislative background to these laws and explains how they serve as an essential “countermeasure available to discourage drunk driving.”

Griffin further discusses present challenges to these existing laws, specifically the onset of alcohol-to-go legislation in response to the dramatic dip in restaurant and bar sales in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While efforts to allow alcohol-to-go predate COVID-19, these types of sales were presented as a practical way to help bars and restaurants during the pandemic,” said Griffin, “However, now that things are returning to normal, alcohol-to-go sales raise a host of challenging questions such as federal compliance with open container laws, challenges for law enforcement, and concerns about underage drinking.”

According to Griffin, alcohol-to-go raises substantial safety questions. “For over forty years, the U.S. has sent a strong ‘don’t drink and drive message’ to the public. Groups like MADD have helped educate the public on the dangers of drinking and driving, including passage of strong open container laws,” says Griffin, “As lawmakers consider these new laws, they must take into account the public health concerns that can occur from relaxing alcohol laws.”

It is very possible that alcohol-to-go legislation may confuse this messaging, as stated in the report. Although these laws provide that to-go cocktails, wine, or beer must be covered, the laws do not guarantee compliance with federal open container laws.  

“Time and again, Americans have made their opinion known: they want policymakers to prioritize public health and safety above increased convenience for acquiring alcohol – the Center has polled the public on this very topic for nearly a decade. Rather than rushing to make temporary privileges permanent, lawmakers ought to carefully weigh the long-term, far reaching public health impact that alcohol-to-go will have” said Jim Hall, former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and Center for Alcohol Policy Advisory Council member.

“There are a number of issues that should be thoughtfully considered before making any deregulatory privileges permanent such as time of sale, alcohol outlet density, underage sales, and the reduced capacity of police officers to enforce federal open container laws, just to name a few. And of course, we cannot forget the tremendous toll that drunk driving has taken on our communities. It’s possible that alcohol-to-go could cause a serious setback to our nation’s historic success in the fight against it,” said Hall.

White Paper Identifies Legislative Successes in Fight Against Drunk Driving, Finds Challenges Still Exist

Today the Center for Alcohol Policy (the Center) released its latest report outlining the legislative history of drunk driving in America, progress made in the fight against it, and present and future challenges that still exist. The white paper was commissioned by the Center and authored by J.T. Griffin, principal of Griffin Strategies, LLC and former Chief Government Affairs Officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

“From BAC limits to the 21 minimum drinking age, the nation has made tremendous progress in reducing the harms of drunk driving, but despite these accomplishments, more needs to be done,” says Griffin. “If law enforcement continues to take the lead in this fight, and manufacturers embrace future safety system technologies, we could see the end of drunk driving.”

Griffin’s report focuses on laws and countermeasures that the federal government and state legislatures have enacted since 1980 to reduce drunk driving. These countermeasures include:

  • The 21 minimum drinking age
  • Open container laws
  • Keeping the alcohol industry regulated through a three-tiered system
  • A national .08 BAC per se limit
  • High visibility law enforcement
  • Ignition interlock systems

Griffin additionally discusses future technologies such as advanced alcohol detection technologies that could one day eliminate drunk driving. These passive systems could be ready and in the vehicle soon and would be able to detect impairment to stop drunk driving.

The report points out that while 28 percent of all alcohol-related deaths involve drunk driving, there has been a 38 percent drop in drunk driving deaths since 1982. But despite this success, “progress in reducing drunk driving deaths has stalled.” Drunk driving deaths have risen steadily since 2011. According to the report, “early estimates from 2020 predict a 9 percent increase over 2019 deaths, a clear indication that there is still much work to be done.”

“While it is encouraging that drunk driving has steadily decreased over the past 30 years, we all know that even one death caused by drunk driving is one too many,” said Jerry Oliver, Advisory Council member for the Center for Alcohol Policy. Oliver is also the former Detroit Chief of Police and Director of the Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control. “This report is an excellent primer that reminds us of the reasons we have our current laws surrounding drunk driving and encourages policymakers to continue crafting forward thinking legislation that will enable progress in the fight to eradicate drunk driving.”

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Center for Alcohol Policy
277 S. Washington Street Suite 500-A Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 519-3090