Monday, January 28, 2008

Sobriety Checkpoints Can Mean Ad Opportunities for Bail Bond Companies

Gov. Chris Gregoire soon will decide how much time and energy to spend trying to persuade lawmakers to back her on legalizing sobriety checkpoints.

Many of them flat out don't like an idea that now faces very dim prospects for success this session.

They cite legal history in this state against use of roadside stops. Then there's personal disgust among conservative and liberal lawmakers who consider the stops to be an excessive incursion of personal liberties.

At this point, you could pile all the openly supportive legislators into a minivan and seating might still be available.

A hearing is planned for Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee on the governor's proposal to let police randomly stop cars to find those who shouldn't be behind the wheel because they imbibed too much alcohol.

Gregoire will pay close attention to the hearing and then decide whether any effort can get the program approved in the session's remaining six weeks.

If the issue passes in the House, she still must get it through the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the chairman is opposed.

With such challenges, she and supporters must tweak their message.

They know lawmakers love to endorse programs that will assist small business and promote economic development. This one will do both.

And Democrats and Republicans line up behind anything that makes government more customer-oriented. This one does that, too.

These points haven't come out yet because, well, the focus is too much on law and order and safety.

It's time for a change in thinking.

It's time for the "Martini and a Map" plan.

The premise is simple: When you buy a drink, you get a free map laying out where the checkpoints are set up for the night and how long they'll be in place.

With this information, people may ponder how long and how much they will drink that evening.

In my native California, where roadside stops are a regular feature of Friday and Saturday nights, we all got the lowdown from the bartender. He reminded us where the cops would be, when they would be there and if we needed to use his phone to call a cab.

I tipped extra for such service.

Here, it's going to take a bit more ingenuity.

I imagine owners of bars and restaurants will recognize the money-making potential in keeping the customers informed.

They could provide a free map marking the spots of the roadside stops. To cover production costs, they sell ads to taxi companies, 24-hour restaurants, lawyers and bail bondsmen.

Government should partner with these businesses, too. Gregoire's proposed legislation requires the public receive advance notice of checkpoints.

What better way to comply than teaming with the establishments to get those maps into the hands of folks as they leave.

This might keep a few drinkers from driving.

Which is the whole point, isn't it?

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