SALT LAKE CITY – Though yet to be formally introduced to the state legislature, a proposed bill could encourage the placement of Breathalyzer or like devices in bars and clubs across the state. The tentative bill also seeks to provide a measure of protection against liability to both the businesses that install the devices and the patrons who choose to use them.
Utah House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, is the man bringing the proposed legislation. He has said he believes it will help cut back on drunk driving.
Last week it was reported by media that the bill may require club and bar owners to put Breathalyzer-like devices or vending machines in their businesses. Hughes held a press conference Friday stating that was not the case.
Rather, the bill, which is still being drafted, would focus on protecting businesses that have the machines available, as well as the patrons that use them on a voluntary basis.
“It’s a privacy issue for patrons and a punitive issue for bar and club owners,” Hughes told St. George News Tuesday.
Hughes said the objective of the bill is to protect an establishment from liability should a patron use the machine and find his or her blood-alcohol level is over the state limit, yet choose to drive anyway.
“We want to be sure it’s not punitive to those who want to put it in their establishment,” Hughes said. “We don’t want to see increased liability to a club or bar owner.”
The bill would also seek to protect the privacy of patrons by not allowing data taken by an on-site Breathalyzer-style device to be accessed by others and used against them. Instead, readings taken by the machines would be wiped after each use.
Hughes said the bill would help people better recognize their limits, particularly those in their early 20s. Under current state law, the legal blood-alcohol limit is .08 for drivers 21 and up. For commercial drivers the limit is .04.
“It is not illegal in Utah to drink. It is not illegal to drink and drive,” Hughes previously said. “It is illegal to drink, drive and have a .08 blood level or higher.”
Hughes said talk of the bill may have gotten out too soon, as it is still being put together.
“For some reason, whenever Utah makes a law, it gets national attention,” he said jokingly.
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