May 23, 2007
European edition, Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Navy plans to place breath testers in 22 of its clubs and restaurants in Europe in the next week in an attempt to combat drinking and driving.
The machines, which measure a person’s blood alcohol content, will be placed in prominent locations at the Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities in Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Greece, according to Navy officials.
“It’s just another tool we’re providing our patrons to help them make better decisions,” Chris Robus, Navy Region-Europe MWR director, said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
Using the alcohol breath testers won’t cost sailors a dime and will be strictly voluntary.
He cautioned that the machines, though believed to be accurate, can’t be used as evidence either to prosecute someone who drinks and drives or to clear them if their breath passes but they’re later pulled over and cited.
“This is not some get-out-of-jail-free card,” Robus said.
Instead, the machines will serve to give customers a good indication how much they’re able to drink and stay under the legal blood-alcohol limit in their respective countries.
“I’m pretty confident if I’ve had one beer that I fall within the limit,” Robus said. “But I don’t know that.”
And Navy officials don’t want sailors and community members to find out only after they’re stopped by local national or military police.
Getting cited is only one concern, though.
Alcohol continues to be a major contributor to accidents in the States and in Europe.
So Navy officials want the machines in place and ready to use by Memorial Day, the start of the “Critical Days of Summer” safety program.
This is the first time the Navy has used such devices in Italy.
The Army and Air Force in Italy currently don’t use them.
The machines — AlcoScan Al-3500 models — take only seconds to use.
A customer blows into a straw dispensed by the machine, and his or her breath is analyzed almost immediately.
The machine’s LED screen then shows results in green, yellow or red.
Like a stop light, yellow is cautionary and will flash for a blood-alcohol content range of .02 to .05.
Red will appear when the level is .05 or higher.
Those with yellow results should probably wait a while before driving.
Those in the red should put their keys back in their pockets and stay away from their cars.
The machines will only be monitored to ensure they’re working properly and that no one is abusing them, Robus said.
He said each AlcoScan Al-3500 holds a supply of 500 straws.
After that, replacement supplies will be needed.
Each machine costs $875, with replacement supplies about $30 each.
“We think this is miniscule compared to the benefits we’re going to get for the program,” he said.