Boston Globe Publishes Top 50 Massachusetts Bars Who Supposedly Have “Last Served” Served Convicted Drunk Drivers

The Boston Globe recently asked itself an interesting question:  Is there an identifiable collection, or concentration, of bars or restaurants in Massachusetts that have a statistically verifiable reputation of being the last place that convicted drunk drivers were served alcohol prior to being arrested for drunk driving  Or, rephrased, “Can we assemble a list of bars that are more likely to “last serve” a person who is soon thereafter arrested for drunk driving? ” 

As I said, this is, both in terms of statistics and public safety, an interesting question.  The Globe published the results of their investigation earlier today, which lists 50 such bars, restaurants, or any business licensed to serve alcohol in Massachusetts, and the story can be found here.  The story creates the new acronym of “PLD,” for “place of last drink”, which the Globe claims represents an instance where the listed establishment allegedly served the last drink to a patron who was intoxicated,  arrested on Massachusetts OUI/DUI charges soon after leaving he bar, and afterward convicted of DUI or operating under the influence. The Globe claims the ratings are based on data it collected and studied from the period of Jan. 2012 through Sept. 2016.

At first glance, this is interesting, but as a Wrentham Massachusetts OUI/DUI attorney, my first question is to ask:  What – precisely – is the purpose of this report?  Is it to encourage people to avoid these establishments? Is it designed to send investigators from the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) into all fifty of these bars and restaurants?  Is it designed to get these establishments to take a closer, internal look at their alcohol serving practices?   If the Globe indeed wants the ABCC to descend on these establishments and crack down on them, it should just say so.  It seems to me that statistics like this can be often misleading.  A similar question could very easily be asked, “How many media stories reported by print news media, or editorial positions taken by editorial boards of news organizations, contained inaccurate information during the period of _____ to _____?”  If an answer arose that said, “These top fifty media outlets (listed)”, and if a certain news outlet were among that list, would it be right to say that that news organization was substandard or negligent in its operations?

Mark Twain, providing attribution to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, once famously said, “There are three kinds of lies:  Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  I think that may bear some remembering, with this report.  If this report by the Boston Globe can cause some self-examination and management review by these fifty establishments, that will be fine and good – and to the benefit of the Massachusetts public.  But let’s not “convict” these establishments on the content of this report, alone.