Every bar would need to get a breathalyzer machine, and allow drinking patrons to test their blood alcohol level for free, under a measure to be introduced by a House GOP leader.
House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, was former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s go-to guy in 2009 when the governor wanted major liquor law reforms.
Hughes did much of the ground work, although GOP senators later took over his liquor-by-the-drink bill.
Hughes tells UtahPolicy that he will introduce a bill later in this session – it is still being drafted – that will help all drinkers, but especially younger drinkers, to understand how much, or how little, they can drink before they hit the drunk-driving limit of 0.08 percent blood alcohol level.
Current Utah law has a 0.08 percent level for adults over 21 years old; no alcohol allowed at all for those under 21; and a 0.04 percent level for commercial adult drivers.
“Especially younger adults have no idea how much they can drink before they are legally drunk while driving,” said Hughes, who does not drink himself.
“It is not illegal in Utah to drink. It is not illegal to drink and drive. It is illegal to drink, drive and have a 0.08 blood level and above,” says Hughes.
His idea is that bars that served mixed drinks, wine and beer and beer bars would have to have a breathalyzer onsite.
Restaurants that serve liquor – but get the majority of their revenue from food – wouldn’t need a breathalyzer, said Hughes.
But he’s talking with industry representatives now to see if it will be voluntary for bars that have no violations, but mandatory for bars that have liquor violations or a history of drunk-driving patrons.
Either way, “It would be completely voluntary” for the patron, says Hughes.
In other words, even really drunk patrons would not be forced to take a breathalyzer test before leaving the bar.
The patron could test himself to see where his alcohol level is.
“It could be a real learning experience for younger drinkers” to see if they are legally drunk, and shouldn’t drive, said Hughes.
The machine would then be wiped. There would be no tracing of the patron’s test.
The alcohol provider would not have any liability greater than the current dram shop laws, said Hughes.
The provider couldn’t be sued if the patron, or his friends looking on, saw that the testee was over 0.08 percent but still chose to drive drunk, get in a wreck and harm himself or others.
Law enforcement couldn’t later check the machine and/or video cameras, somehow connect the testee to the above 0.08 percent test, and take action against him or the bar owner.
No one would test themselves if that test could be used against him, said Hughes. No establishment owner would want a breathalyzer in his business if it could be used later to sue him.
“This is my analogy: We have speeding limits. Our cars have speedometers so we can see if we are abiding by the speed limits.
“We should have (breathalyzers) available so (drinking patrons) can test themselves to see if they, too, are under the limit.”