Scottsdale-based Safe Harbor, a privately owned company that installs mandated ignition interlock systems for those convicted of DUI offenses, is planning a new venture. Rodney Thomas, Safe Harbor's managing partner, said the company plans to offer clubgoers an on-the-spot breath analysis for a $4 or $5 fee.
The idea, Thomas said, is to let drinkers know before they get behind the wheel if they are over the legal limit of 0.08 blood alcohol and therefore deemed legally drunk.
For a few bucks, a customer would get a card with the alcohol content readout, a description of the process, a synopsis of the law and phone numbers for local taxis or shuttles that could provide an alternative ride home.
Thomas said the new business, dubbed Entertainment Detection, is slated to launch in the fall, but the company hopes to start pilot testing the concept within a month or so, probably in Valley club districts.
Safe Harbor employees will "work out the bugs," by hanging out where the club crowd congregates, brandishing the portable breath testers and hopefully persuading inebriated patrons to opt for a test and a safe ride home, he said.
Eventually, Entertainment Detection hopes to get invites to wine tastings and other events where people are likely to be drinking, and maybe set up breath-testing booths at sporting arenas and stadiums.
Thomas said the portable breath analyzers his company will use are professional versions, manufactured by the same company that supplies the ignition interlocks.
At least one local club owner thinks it's a little pricey but would welcome having such a service available to his customers.
"I wouldn't have any problem with it," said Tom Anderson, who owns the Upper Deck Sports Grill and Forbidden in Scottsdale.
"I think it's a good idea, so people don't get in a car and end up in jail for 10 days."
But Ericka Espino, executive director of the Arizona branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the test could give drinkers an unwarranted pass to drive when they shouldn't.
"The Breathalyzers could give people a false sense of security if they show under 0.08," Espino said.
"Arizona recognizes impairment to the slightest degree," she said, which means a driver can be charged with a DUI offense regardless of the numbers.
"I am petite, and alcohol affects me faster," Espino said. "I could never drive - or would never drive - at 0.06," she said.