There’s been a lot of hullabaloo lately about Indiana’s liquor laws. Could a convenience store qualify as a restaurant? Should grocery stores be allowed to sell cold beer? Can children come into a liquor store if they are accompanied by a parent? What about Sunday alcohol sales?

As far as I’m concerned none of these things matter; they’re just distractions from the bigger issues. The real questions that need to be asked and addressed: Are establishments serving or selling to those under 21? Are people overconsuming alcohol? And are people driving while intoxicated?

Everything else is just details. Which day of the week you buy your booze doesn’t matter as long as you’re over 21 and not driving drunk. If children can be around a parent purchasing liquor in a grocery store, why can’t they accompany that same parent to a liquor store?

For that matter, the parent might not have to make an additional stop at a liquor store on the way to a family gathering if the grocery stores were allowed to sell cold beer in the first place. None of these nit-picky regulations have anything to do with the larger issues I’ve mentioned.

Same thing with sectioning off a bar in a restaurant. When I was a kid, it had to be completely closed off so that you couldn’t even see the bar from the dining room. Now the bar is usually demarcated by a railing with everything visible. What difference does this make? None toward addressing my above caveats.

I can see a reason for designating a separate bar space so that there is a family section and a more adult-oriented area. I would understand that a parent might not wish children to be exposed to conversations and language likely to exist in a bar. But that is more along the lines of movie rating regulations than it is akin to liquor laws.

Once it is determined a customer is of legal drinking age then this is the next issue: Are patrons over-consuming or being over-served? It doesn’t matter if someone is drinking in a restaurant, bar or a convenience store with a certain percentage of food sales. If they are consuming responsibly, then it doesn’t matter where they are doing it.

If they are consuming irresponsibly, then it is a problem. Legislation should focus on educating those serving alcohol rather than spending time gerrymandering who can sell it. Alternatives to driving after drinking should be emphasized, such as perks for designated drivers.

Increase public awareness about substance abuse so people aren’t drinking too much to begin with. Let people know there is help to combat problems with chemical dependency through free programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Simply limiting where adult beverages can be purchased or consumed will not solve the more important problems of over-consumption or operating under the influence. The problem isn’t access to alcohol but rather what someone does with the drink once it is obtained.

If we simply rely on making alcohol difficult to get then we are falling back on the ideas behind prohibition and dry counties. Instead let’s educate our citizens about responsible consumption and the risks involved with overindulging, and by extension, the evils of driving after drinking.

Drunk driving is a serious issue that can have lifelong consequences for the violator and victim. This is the real dragon we need to slay. The way to go about it is to raise awareness about alcohol and its effects and education about monitoring one’s self.

If these objectives are achieved, then we need not spend time debating minutiae.

Stephanie Haines is a Greenfield native. She can be contacted through her website, www.stephaniehaines.com.