Local company IntoxBox aims to lower DUIs via breathalyzers in bars

Lacking hard evidence, drunk minds tend to convince themselves they're under the legal limit, says IntoxBox.
Lacking hard evidence, drunk minds tend to convince themselves they're under the legal limit, says IntoxBox.

There are usually two kinds of breathalyzers. One: questionably accurate pocket models that drunk people pass around as a party trick, and use to laugh about how drunk they are. Two: the calibrated ones police use in field sobriety tests -- likely accompanied by pleas about being fine to drive -- that aren't a joke at all.

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Eden Prairie-based IntoxBox aims to provide a third option. The company's motivating idea is that a lot of drunk drivers just don't know they're over the legal limit.

If reliable blood alcohol content (BAC) tests were more readily available, the thinking goes, wannabe-drivers could find out their level -- and the drunk ones would stay off the roads.

IntoxBox has some numbers to back up the theory. Along with Minnesotans for Safe Driving, the company surveyed 200 people convicted of driving drunk. 90 percent of them said they "would find it helpful to have access to an accurate breathalyzer," and about 80 percent reported they hadn't known they were over the limit.

The IntoxBox in action at a bar.

"It's like asking people to obey the speed limit without a speedometer," says company president Ryan Walden. "Currently, the only way drivers know if they're breaking the law is if a cop pulls them over."

Walden wants to change that. "Our goal is to be at the point of decision, and to help people make better decisions," he says.

IntoxBox has been in production for about a year, and in that time, has landed about 90 machines in 18 states, with 26 in bars in Minnesota.

Curious drinkers can pay $2 per test, or $5 for three -- though for December, National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, the company's giving away tests one work night per week at Minnesota locations.

On normal nights, players can still score a free test by guessing their BAC correctly. And following a test, the IntoxBox machines display icons for local cab companies, which users can click to call.

There's always another option, too: if you even have to think about it, chances are you shouldn't get behind the wheel.

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