Safer hours

AS part of a continued drive in many areas against drunken driving, two different areas of North America in recent days have banned ''happy hours'' - late-afternoon promotions that encourage drinking through the sale of cut-rate alcoholic beverages. The two are the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Province of Ontario, Canada's most populous province.

In addition, a New York State legislator says he intends to introduce similar legislation in his state.

These are good steps: May other states enact similar bans. Although per capita consumption of alcohol in the United States has decreased for the fifth consecutive year, drunken driving remains a major problem. It is unconscionable for bars to be permitted to continue to lure Americans into drinking ever larger amounts in the late afternoon - and then send them out the swinging doors to get behind the wheel and weave their way home, endangering others on the road.

Ontario's consumer minister, Robert Elgie, has the right perspective: ''The message is pretty clear that the public wants drinking and driving looked at more seriously.''

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