Health & Lifestyle

Tennessee could OUTLAW the sale of chilled beer from gas stations and stores – in novel effort to crack down on drink driving (but warm brews would be OK!)

Tennessee could ban the sale of chilled beer in all retail stores including gas stations and convenience stores in an effort to curb drink driving.

Republican lawmakers are proposing the ban in the state senate, saying it would help to slash car crashes in the state — up to a third of which involve alcohol.

Senator Ron Gant proposed the bill after he was involved in an ‘extremely tragic’ car crash involving alcohol in 2022 where a drunk driver died after driving across a lane and smashing into his vehicle.

Tennessee has one of the highest number of deaths from car accidents nationwide, with 1,330 fatalities on its roads in 2022. 

Indiana has previously brought in restrictions on the sale of chilled beer in a number of its retail stores except for liquor stores, while many states have imposed other alcohol restrictions — such as only allowing its sale in specified stores. 

Republican lawmakers are proposing the ban in the state senate, saying it would help to slash car accidents in the state — up to a third of which involve alcohol.

Republican lawmakers are proposing the ban in the state senate, saying it would help to slash car accidents in the state — up to a third of which involve alcohol.

Rep. Gant told State Affairs: ‘Right now, we make it so easy for alcohol to be available, not only to adults but also to minors.

‘The intent here is to curb access to cold refrigerated alcohol at convenience stores and retail establishments.’

He added: ‘A lot of times, in the afternoon especially, people get off of work, they’ve had a long, hard day [and] they want a beer.

‘Many people [then] go in and get a six-pack or a 12-pack and begin to drink it on their way home.

‘The first question you have to ask is, if we know we can’t drink and drive and we know it’s the law in Tennessee — and if a driver cannot have an open container in the car — [then] why does it have to be cold?

‘Why can’t you sell lukewarm to discourage drivers from getting that cold beer and drinking it on the way home?’

Gant was involved in a fatal traffic accident in October 2022, when a vehicle crossed a lane of traffic and struck his car.

He was airlifted to a Memphis hospital for multiple surgeries and a prolonged stay in the ICU — and can now only walk with the help of a cane.

Motor crashes are the leading cause of death among those aged one to 54 years old in the United States — with about 117 recorded every day.

About a third are DUI’s — or driving under the influence — when alcohol is involved in the accident.

Deaths from car crashes are on the rise in the US, with about 42,000 Americans now losing their lives in accidents every year — up 16 percent from five years ago. About a third of these involve alcohol. 

Mississippi has the highest rate (34 fatalities per 100,000 vehicles) of car collision deaths, followed by New Mexico (26), South Carolina (24) and Louisiana (23).

The bill — dubbed SB2636 — was introduced on January 31 by the Republicans and has already passed two readings in the Senate.

It has now been referred to a committee, but will still need to pass another vote in the Senate. A similar bill has also been proposed in the state House.

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 46,270 people died last year, a slight dip from 46,980 in 2020, but higher than before Covid-19

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 46,270 people died last year, a slight dip from 46,980 in 2020, but higher than before Covid-19

The bill will also need to be signed by Republican Governor Bill Lee before it can become law.

It is unclear how long the bill may take to become law, but this could easily be more than a year.

Some legislators have already voiced support for the bill including Republican William Lambeth, saying: ‘It’s been less than two years since [Gant] was almost killed by a drunk driver.

‘The man still uses a cane to hobble around the halls of the legislature here to serve his constituents.’

He added: ‘For God’s sake, don’t drink and drive. Don’t consume that cold beer you bought while you were buying gas.’

Several beer manufacturers in the state have expressed concerns over the law, however, saying it could harm sales.

Andy Ashby, the co-owner of Memphis Made Brewing, said: ‘This would be very detrimental to our brewery and the beer business in general.

‘There’s a saying in beer sales: Cold is gold.

‘[This] would have a huge impact, huge. Package sales are somewhere around 40 to 50 percent of our sales, and 90 percent of that is cold.’


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