The holiday season is known to bring people together, and often times, the togetherness is coupled with good bit of booze.
For this reason, police typically step-up enforcement, resulting in an increase in DUI-related arrests. The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 40 percent of traffic-related deaths during Christmas and New Year's involve drunk drivers — a 12 percent increase over the rest of the month of December.
But patrons at select bars in Salt Lake City will soon have an interactive kiosk to help them decide whether or not to get behind the wheel.
It's called the BreathAdvisor, with the aptly worded tagline, "We've got your B.A.C." The wall-mounted kiosk features a 17-inch HD touchscreen LCD monitor and provides a numerical and graphical readout of the patron's blood alcohol content via a built-in breathalyzer.
As BreathAdvisor founder Jason Knott explained, roughly 15 minutes after the patron's last sip of alcohol, they would walk up to the kiosk and select the "Begin Breath Check" button. Once they agree to the disclaimer and make the $2 payment, they take a straw from the dispenser and blow into the machine. They are then presented with the results from the Lifeloc Technologies breathalyzer, a device approved for alcohol screening by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"Our main goal was to produce a quality machine that would allow patrons to get the most accurate BAC reading possible without actually drawing blood," Knott said. "That's why we use the LifeLoc fuel cell breathalyzer that is DOT-approved and used by law enforcement agencies across the U.S. and other countries."
The BreathAdvisor kiosks are linked to local taxi company dispatchers, providing patrons with the option to request a cab ride directly from the screen after realizing they are over the legal limit to drive.
"Ultimately we want people to be educated on how their body processes alcohol and use that information to make the right decision at the end of the night," Knott said.
The idea for the kiosk came from Knott's own brush with the law after drinking at a local bar. Knott said he felt sober enough to drive home, but upon leaving he was quickly pulled over for not signaling. He blew just .001 over the legal limit, ultimately receiving mercy from the cop who directed him to a gas station to call for a ride home.
"I couldn't believe how lucky I was to have avoided the consequences that can come from driving under the influence," he said. "I decided at that moment that this was a problem I wanted to solve. I wanted to create something that would allow patrons to make informed decisions. I never would have gotten in that car had I known that I was over the legal limit."
The current BreathAdvisor business model offers the kiosk to owners of alcohol-serving establishments at no cost, Knott said, with incentives such as a usage revenue share and the possibility for owners to lower liability insurance costs. With Utah slated as the focus group for the first few months, Knott said he plans to expand into Arizona, Nevada, California and Colorado.
So far, four bars in Utah have signed up to host the kiosks.
"I think it's a great idea," said Jim Showman, owner of Canyon Inn, one of the participating bars. "When this came along, I thought, what a great way to convince someone not to drive."
Showman said that it is often difficult to persuade a bar patron that they have had too much to drink. It is also hard for bartenders to gauge alcohol intake when so many people are "pre-drinking" before going out, making the BreathAdvisor a strong ally in swaying patrons toward safety, he said.
Jerry Hone, the GM of Lumpy's South, another planned home for the BreathAdvisor, agrees with Showman that the deployment is great opportunity to "give customers another way to be aware of their level of sobriety."
And although the kiosk has not yet been installed at Canyon Inn, Showman said a local attorney has already provided a bit of artwork to hang above the space where the machine will be mounted.
Showman said it reads, "A $10 cab ride or $10,000 in lawyer fees?"
Read more about kiosks in restaurants.