Breathalyzers in bars ~ what’s your vote?

I recently read a news piece on CBC about a Moncton businessman hoping to install breathalyzer machines in bars and nightclubs across the Maritimes. The man said he believed that the coin-operated machines could save lives because they’d educate customers and make them more aware (and thereby, hopefully more responsible for their actions).

He already has 2 in a club in Moncton. For $2, a person can get a blood alcohol content reading. Ideally if a person got a reading that was near or above the legal limit, they’d be less likely to take the chance and drive. The bar owner said that this type of things is very popular in Montreal and Toronto.

That being said, there’s always a flip side. A representative from CAA said in the article that people should be very careful relying on coin-operated breathalyzers because there’s no way to tell just how accurate they are. He said that people should take it as a clear indication that they shouldn’t drive if they felt the need to test themselves to begin with.

Hmmm…good point!

Reliability and liability. I know the police breathalyzers are maintained on a regular schedule to guarantee their reliability in a court of law. If I used one of these coin-operated machines and it said I was under the limit and then I drove, got stopped and blew over, I’d be pretty pissed!

In the article, an RCMP spokesperson said that people need to know that the only reading that counts is the one measured by police.


Even still, I do think it’s a good thing. Especially if bar owners are willing to do some maintenance and care to ensure the machines are fairly accurate. I think anything that helps people take pause, for even a moment, to question whether they should drive is a step in the right direction. Maybe more often than not someone would decide it’s just not worth the risk.

I took part in the poll on CBC and was happy to see that (at that time) 72.85% (110 voters) agreed that bars should have coin-operated breathalyzers for patrons while only 27.15% (41 voters) disagreed.

What do you think?

The absolute best way to avoid risking blowing over is to commit to zero alcohol when you are driving.

Two years ago, my beautiful mother-in-law’s life was cut tragically short by an impaired driver and my stepson’s life changed forever. In honor of Donna and Jordan Kennie, please don’t drink and drive. Impaired driving is 100% preventable. Think about it.

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  1. prudencemacleod says:

    At best, this is easy. Alcohol is a depressant; coffee is a stimulant. Think about it then decide what you want to drink. If you’re going to drive, go for the stimulants.

  2. Everything that helps with awareness is a good idea. Wise advice though to not take the reading as gospel!

  3. I say, why not? It could actually be fun, like those weird heartrate tester machines at the pharmacy. And maybe it’ll make people think twice before getting into their car. I also think there should be some kind of a deal for using taxis. We should either get a drunk but not driving discount on the taxi or at the bar. It might encourage people to find another way home.

  4. Anything that gives a person pause, or encourages them to think about what they are doing, is a good thing. I just have my doubts it would be effective. An interesting question though!

  5. The first thing I thought when I read this post is that there are an awful lot of stupid drinkers in the world. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them looking at breathalyzers as a challenge. Taking bets to see who can get their blood alcohol levels the highest.

    I’d rather see the police doing the testing, although that would be nearly impossible given all the restaurant and bars serving alcohol. Maybe MADD could offer up volunteers?

    I just don’t see coin operated machines as being a deterrent…unless the machines were maintained so that results were admissible in court. And using it before leaving a bar was mandatory. Have it set up like Chuck-E-Cheese where an employee would sit at the door. They could insert the driver’s license of the person being tested into the machine. If the numbers are too high, the machine keeps the license.

    It could work. I just think it would have to be more than a coin operated thing.

    • I would love to see the police administering WAY more breathalizer Kristy! Amen to that. Unfortunately in Canada, police cannot administer random breath testing. They need “suspicion” before they can issue a breath demand on a person. Although MADD Canada continues to petition and advocate for random breath testing in Canada – which would put a huge dent in our impaired driving numbers. I hope to someday see it implemented here.

      • It should be a law…everywhere…that testing is mandatory before leaving any establishment that serves alcohol. My right to drive safely on the roads should trump their right to drive impaired. And I don’t care if they have a problem with blowing into a machine. If you choose not to drink at home, suck it up and just do it.

        • AMEN!
          My right to drive safely on the roads should trump their right to drive impaired!
          HALLELUJAH! I couldn’t AGREE more! I hope we get to the point one day where every vehicle has a steering wheel that is equipped with sensors that make it so that that car won’t start and people cannot drive impaired period. Sort of like air bags and seat belts.

  6. I don’t see any harm in having breathalyzers in bars, only potentially life-saving benefits. So… DUH! 😉 Why wait until a person is driving erratically or worse?? Kristy brings up a good point, though. So perhaps the tests should happen between drinks. If a person is nearing drunken horribleness, he or she gets booted. Or coffee. Thanks for another great post!

    • I couldn’t agree more August. I don’t think they can hurt so why not?!?!? But at the same time, like you and Kristy, I’d love to see laws or policies with a lot more ‘bite’ to make a real difference.

  7. I think it’s a great idea. In Alberta we have a new law that at .05, the police can impound your car for 24 hours (along with your license). that’s one glass of wine with dinner. So if I had a drink, I would always check the breathalyser before I left. If i was over .05, I’d stay and drink coffee for awhile – until I was sure I was below that level.

  8. Tim Rose says:

    Hello Natalie,

    My name is Tim Rose and I am the person that started putting the Breathalyzer machines in the bars. I believe the same as your readers that any little thing that will prevent bar patrons from leaving the bar and getting behind the wheel is good. The purpose behind these machines is to give the bar patron a deterrent and make them think once more before leaving the bar and getting behind the wheel. This is just one tool that bars can use to stop drinking and driving . If it saves one life the tool is working . I love the feed back and I am glad that I came across this page. Also for your readers I calibrate the machines every two weeks so that the reading is as accurate as possible . The machines are only off by plus or minus 0.01. I thank you for your interest in this topic and Lets work together to help make our street safer in our communities. My Facebook page can be accessed under Yellowline Vending. Thanks Again. Remember the motto we have at our company: “Check yourself before you Wreck yourself”

    • Hi Tim and thank you so much for swinging by the blog and adding your comment and your support. I can’t commend you enough on what you are doing with getting breathalyzers into bars. Any little thing that helps give people who are drinking pause and time to think or second guess a decision to drive is a God sent in my eyes. And I agree completely, if it saves ONE life, it’s worth it! And great information on the calibration and accuracy. That is fantastic. I am super pumped and I hope you get a ton of business and calls for more installations. Hopefully all over the province. I’ve gone and liked your Facebook page and will definitely give you as much promo as I can muster. The work you are doing is incredible and LOVE LOVE LOVE the company motto. AMEN to that Tim! CHEERS and here’s to continuing to fight the good fight to keep our roads safe!

  9. Great post, a lot of good points and questions brought up. I’m actually the founder of IntoxBox, the first ever touchscreen-operated bar breathalyzer so I’m quite familiar with the pros and cons.

    One question we’ve tried to answer is whether or not this information would change people’s behavior. So we actually have been going to classes for first-time DUI offenders and surveying them about their decision to drive drunk. What we found was that 47% of these people said they believed they were under the legal limit when they decided to drive and 80% said that if they had known definitively that they were over the legal limit, they would not have driven. So the evidence is quite clear that people really need this information to make better decisions.

    Also, a lot of people do make the point that it can be used as a drinking game inside a bar. We have certainly seen people use it for enjoyment but no one actually taking it as a challenge to get dangerously drunk. Then again, we aren’t worried about people being intoxicated inside a bar, we are worried about people being intoxicated on the roads. The most horrific impact of drunk driving is that it’s often the other guy who gets hit by the drunk driver that dies or gets seriously injured.

    As far as accuracy goes, there really aren’t many good products on the market, which is why they still aren’t very common despite being around since the 1970’s. I would have loved to start a local distribution route with an existing product but all the reviews from bar owners were that they were horribly inaccurate, which is why I designed my own. The IntoxBox literally uses the same quality breathalyzer as law enforcement and we’ve tested it on the news against police officer units with great results.

    Great post, just thought I would give my two cents. It’s still a very unknown industry and it’s always good to raise awareness!

    • Ryan . I have started my own distribution company and now carry the personal breathalyzers , the “Blow before you go” product , that is presently being used by law enforcement around the world , even the military . It is a one time use disposable breathalyzer calibrated at .08.Also we have a product called Date Detective . This is a product that was invented in the U.K to deter “drink spikers”. Please look me up on facebook . I have a website coming in the next few weeks. I would like to hear more on your product.

      Did you know that in France this past summer they past a law that it is mandatory that you carry a Breathalyzer in your car?

      Here is a little about my company:

      Yellowline is a distribution company located on the east coast of Canada in the lovely city of Moncton, New Brunswick.
      Yellowline started January 2012 by owner and operator Tim Rose. We are a young and growing company in a very important market that may help save lives. We supply bars, pubs, and retail outlets with reliable measuring tools so that the consumer can be aware of their “Blood Alcohol Content” (B.A.C).
      Yellowline is committed to running a business that will provide alcohol awareness “tools” to consumers, which in return will allow them to drink safely and find alternative means of getting home. Our goal is keeping our roads and highways safe of Impaired Drivers.
      Yellowline is a proud supporter of “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaigns, and this is our way of giving back to the community.

      • I am now officially inlove with France! 🙂 Amazing. I wish more of our countries would enact the laws and products necessary to make it impossible for people to drive impaired period.

        Thanks so much for swinging by and commenting Tim. I really appreciate having both your and Ryan’s perspective and information on this. Don’t be shy to share your websites and Facebook pages here so that others reading can find you and support you!

        And BTW, LOVE Date Detective. Genius.

        It warms my heart to hear and read about so many socially responsible companies that are out there trying to do their part to give back and enable our communities and people to have the tools necessary to make smart choices. Yes, it would be wonderful if people just adopted the commitment not to drive after having anything more than 1 or 2 drinks, period. But…if they aren’t, then having the tools like Blow Before You Go and IntoxBox are key to enabling people to make smart decisions, especially when their judgement is already impaired.

        Thanks to both of you for your continued commitment and to your commenting here. Hope to see more of you around the blogosphere and am happy to support however I can!

    • Thank you so much for your comment Ryan and all the amazing information you provide. I love that you guys have done the research to find out what would in fact changes people’s behavior…I think that is key in knowing all the strategies necessary to end impaired driving.

      When you wrote:
      Then again, we aren’t worried about people being intoxicated inside a bar, we are worried about people being intoxicated on the roads. The most horrific impact of drunk driving is that it’s often the other guy who gets hit by the drunk driver that dies or gets seriously injured.

      I yelled a little AMEN! You couldn’t have said it better.

      I went and checked out your site: and have liked your page on Facebook. I think the more people we can get out there doing this kind of thing, the better. Thank you for the work that you continue to do to contribute towards ending this violent crime.

      You are welcome to swing by with your two cents anyway…much appreciated!

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