Local Bars Put Up Breathalyzer Machines to Save Lives

Local Bars Put Up Breathalyzer Machines to Save Lives

Anum Valliani

NewsWest 9

WEST TEXAS - Some local watering holes have found a new way to play it safe from people going overboard on the booze. It's called a Boozelator. It's meant to save lives. The machines, which are glorified breathalyzers, have been brought in by a company from Amarillo called Texas Drink Smart. The company's founder and owner, Dave Wilton, said he was just looking for ways to prevent drinking and driving while making some money.

"It draws a crowd, meaning if someone's using it, people are watching. Therefore, they're seeing that breathalyzer and hopefully they're association with that breathalyzer with something good," he said.

Melton put up about 50 Boozelators across eight cities in February. The machines went up just a couple of weeks ago in Lone Star Bar and Your Place in Midland and Pat's Place and Corky's in Odessa, and this is just part of the first wave.

To get it to work, customers just have to put in $2 and out pops a straw you stick into a slot. Then you blow into it, just like a normal breathalyzer, and seconds later, your blood alcohol content level flashes on screen. Mike Cowen, who's a manager at the Lone Star Bar, said he's seen people get riled up and sometimes turn it into a game.

"They blow on it, and they see that they're not drunk and they say, 'See ya, I don't have any problems, how about you?' And then someone else will get up almost like a challenge," Cowen said.

But John Sabo, who's visiting Midland, on business wants to give people the benefit of the doubt.

"I don't think people will view it as a bar game or something to outdo each other at. I think that people realize it's just a tool for people to use and be safe with and ultimately get yourself home in one piece," he said.

Sabo said he'd probably come around to using it if he had to.

"I'd like to think that if I were concerned enough about being able to drive home, that I'd want to use the breathalyzer machine first," Sabo said.

His only criticism is that it could be a little more visible.

"Because right now, it kind of just looks like a coin machine almost, but it's right by the karaoke machine," he said.

Cowen says the machine has impacted how people are drinking. He said it's working as a deterrent because patrons realize there's a breathalyzer there plus staff members who could suggest they head on over for a reading if needed. Despite the fact that no one has tested over the limit yet, he said a lot of times people use the machine during the middle of their outing, as opposed to the end, when for many, it would be the highest. Still, he highly recommends the Boozelator to other businesses.

"I mean we all want to sell liquor but we in no way want anybody to be hurt leaving here or to have too much and go out and hurt someone else," he said.

In Texas once you reach .08, it's illegal to drive. Melton said the machines have the same technology law enforcement officers use and therefore it will have accurate readings. Still he wanted to remind people that regardless of what the machine says, take extra caution driving home since you don't technically have to be above the limit to get arrested if authorities find you to be drunk enough to endanger.

Melton said using the machines is purely voluntary and that there are no printouts or  records of the results. His next step is to put up more machines throughout Texas.