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The Globe and Mail

Should valet staff hold keys of drunk drivers?

Bars and restaurants are already liable when they fail to stop drunk patrons from getting behind the wheel; now one Boston politician is pushing for valet parking attendants to share in the task.

The move again widens the public responsibility for curbing would-be drunk drivers.

The NPR's Tovia Smith reports on Boston city counsellor Rob Consalvo, who wants valet employees to withhold car keys from patrons who seem drunk.

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"They are literally our last line of defence," Mr. Consalvo told NPR. "If not them, who? They are the ones with the cars and the keys."

Mr. Consalvo is crusading for the issue after learning of a scooter driver killed by a drunk driver in the city. The driver said he was "blackout drunk" and complained that valet staff had given him his car keys.

Some in the valet industry suggested that it is unrealistic to have teenagers making minimum wage charged with fetching cars tasked with spotting signs of intoxication in their clients, who, they fear, may take a swing at them or sue if their cars are withheld.

"You're going to have suit after suit after suit," Dave Andelman of the U.S.-based Restaurant and Business Alliance told NPR. He wondered how far down the line responsibility should be extended: to coat checkers?

"You are sending a message to the individual, 'We'll take care of you like a baby,' not, 'You're an adult, and act like an adult,' " Mr. Andelman said.

In Canada, bars are legally on the hook if staff continue serving someone who is drunk and then do nothing to halt the patron from getting into a car and driving off.

Social host liability is trickier territory, with the Supreme Court finding that adult guests are responsible for their own conduct at BYOB parties, although parents have had to compensate people injured when a minor drove home drunk after a house party. Mothers Against Drunk Driving suggests employers as well as parents are on the hook as hosts.

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Should valet staff be responsible for potential drunk drivers?

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