Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Peltzman Effect and Valets

Should valets withhold keys from drunk drivers? Boston city official Rob Consalvo thinks so. NPR this morning:
He says it only makes sense that valet workers withhold keys from drivers who appear drunk. "They are literally our last line of defense," Consalvo says. "If not them, who?..."
I was feeling a bit tired this morning, but this got me out of bed as I yelled "You! You, you idiot, you!" over and over again The driver is the last line of defense against drunk driving, not some teenager. WTF?

The piece hit on some of the reasons this is a bad idea. Teenagers don't have much experience with alcohol so their ability to recognize impairment is limited. They don't have the social clout to deny an adult stranger his keys (especially if he's an angry drunk). They would be faced with tremendous legal assaults. The cost of training would make parking (including non-valet parking since many would shift away from valet parking to non-valet) even more expensive. And, as Dave Andelman of the Restaurant and Business Alliance said, "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,'"

But the Peltzman effect teaches us another reason. If you start making valets police drunks, then drunks will police themselves less. "I'm not sure if I'm too drunk to drive, but the valet will stop me if I am so I might as well try." Of course, valets make mistakes and the Peltzman effect predicts even if we swallow these costs, nothing will change.