The University of Tampa is hoping a single breath will save the lives of many. The Board of Trustees is considering distributing single-use Legal Limit Breathscan Alcohol Indicator breathalyzers to curb alcohol abuse and drunk driving on campus.
The device shows users when their Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC, has passed the tube’s limit – before they can get behind the wheel or have another drink. The indicator itself is keychain-ready, so it should be relatively difficult to ignore.
Users begin the test by exhaling into the device for 12 seconds. Then, after a quick shake of the tube, the crystals inside change color if the student has exceeded the tube’s limit – devices such as those in consideration detects a BAC ranging from .02 to .08 respectively. Users should wait fifteen minutes after their last drink before beginning the test.
Since alcohol impairs judgment, self-testing is risky at best, meaning the buddy system remains key in preventing drunk driving. According to Legal Limit’s website, the device is 98 percent accurate, thanks mainly to its single-use design.
“I think kids will use it,” said Annette Leiske, an Austin RA. “It won’t decrease drinking, but may help out those who think their friends may not be able to drive.”
A price tag of $4.99-$5.99 per unit and $2.99-3.99 per refill puts the cost of distribution for one year at roughly $20,000. To continue using this device would shortly create a hefty financial burden – that is, without the support program donors like Gene McNichols.
McNichols serves as chair of the Board of Trustees Student Affairs Committee and has pledged $1000 from his company to help defray the cost. At least five other trustees have expressed interest in donating. Some, however, feel this money could be better spent.
“There are better alternatives for the price,” says Ann Quinn-Zobeck, Director of Alcohol Abuse and Impaired Driving Prevention Initiatives for the BACCHUS Network. “I haven’t seen any studies that show it makes a difference.”
A more comprehensive though expensive alternative could be a taxi system provided by the university to places where students drink.
“Pepin Distributing has offered a taxi system in a past year through their corporate offices.” said Dean of Students Bob Ruday. However, the program had problems and was discontinued. “If [students] drink, they have the responsibility to call a taxi for a safe ride home,” Ruday commented. “Taxis should not be the responsibility of the University to provide.”
“[Overall,] this is a step in the right direction” said WUTT DJ Kyle Andrews. He believes the one-time use devices are not sufficient because “no college student would pay for the refills.”
Responsibility always remains an issue, as well. Sophomore Ryan Louvain even commented that he would use the Legal Limit keychain “as more for fun, to see how drunk I got.” The university would provide product education through Gateways, ResLife and Student Activities, among others.
Alcohol prevention alternatives are costly and expensive, but as Ruday was quick to note, “The best alternative is a designated driver.”