If you’re downtown Seattle and you’re having a few drinks, you might want to take a look around you. More than 100 bars now have breathalyzer machines installed, and although they’re designed to be 95% accurate, there are things to keep in mind if you rely on one to decide whether or not you’ll drive home.
The breathalyzer machines were put into place by a retired construction manager who saw a need for people to self-monitor in Washington bars. Over 100 bars are signed up and have installed the breathalyzers, and so far they’ve seen positive results. One bar owner feels that it’s a good reminder that drinking and driving is dangerous, and he likes that he doesn’t have to remind patrons that they can easily tip over the legal limit because the breathalyzer does it for him.
The machines are pre-calibrated, and although they are 95% accurate, the owner of the machines makes it clear that they are not a substitute for police grade breathalyzers. For a lot of reasons, machines like these should never be used to make a decision on whether or not you’re safe to drive a vehicle either. Here are a few reasons why.
You could blow .07 and feel as though you’re safe to drive
A lot of people think that blowing .08 is the threshold for drinking and driving, but what if you use a in-bar breathalyzer and you blow .07? If you think that makes it OK for you to drink and drive, think again. That level of impairment can affect your reflexes, vision, and coordination in the same way as if you’re over .08.
You alcohol content could increase between the time you blow and the time you drive
It takes two hours to metabolize one drink, so if you have 3 drinks in one hour, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will slowly go up. Imagine if you have a few drinks and blow a .06 on the in-bar breathalyzer at 11:00 pm, then you get behind the wheel at 11:30. Your BAC could be higher than .06 by that point, rendering you legally impaired.
Even one drink can affect your driving skills
For some people, having one drink can affect their driving, so blowing into an in-bar breathalyzer can make them feel confident about getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t be.
The breathalyzers in Washington bars are handy as a talking point, and because the owner donates a portion of the proceeds to charity, their presence also means they are doing good for the community. Just keep in mind if you use them that any amount of alcohol can affect your driving, and it’s best to call a cab or Uber if you plan on drinking.