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Should all bars have breathalyzer machines?

A Utah congressman is proposing that more of the state's bars should have breathalyzer machines, so that people can check whether they're safe to drive home.

The Boozelator. One example of a bar-based breathalyzer.
Bio Dad Sons/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

"It makes good sense."

Normally these words, when spoken by a politician, deserve to be treated with asbestos ears.

However, a proposal by Utah Republican Rep. Greg Hughes might make more than one person consider its merit. Especially those who like a drink and those who own bars.

As the Associated Press reports, Hughes believes that bars should help customers who want to drive home by installing breathalyzer machines.

Bars across America have been experimenting with various devices. For example, as ABC News reported, in Toledo OH, some have installed a machine charmingly called the Boozelator. You insert $1, you take a straw and breathe through it into the machine.

Lance Heffner, president of the company behind the Boozelator, told ABC News that his company had tested it against police breathalyzers and found it to either give the exact same readings or be within .02 percent of the police results.

Just as with your fancy wristband that tells you how well you've slept or how far you've run, the biggest problem is accuracy.

The results of machines like the Boozelator aren't admissible in court. Moreover, if you use the machine, decide you're safe to drive, then get stopped by police and told you're over the limit, you can't sue the bar.

On the Boozelator, there are large letters that read: "This machine is for entertainment purposes only."

Many people drink for entertainment too. So Hughes believes it's better for them to entertain themselves with at least a hope of responsibility.

He told the AP: "It's not illegal to drink in the state of Utah. It's not illegal to drink and operate a vehicle (with an alcohol level below the legal limit). How does a consumer know where they're at, exactly? I think it makes sense."

He believes it would especially help younger drinkers, who often have little clue of their limits (in anything).

Hughes' proposal can't force bars to install the machines. However, he hopes to at least ensure that bars aren't held responsible for customers who fail the machine's test, but decide to drive anyway.

In the end, the responsibility is always your own. If the machine tells you you're safe, but you tell yourself you might not be, it's best not to drive.

The reverse, though, might be helpful. If you feel "fine," but the machine tells you that you're not, the machine might just be the nagging, sober friend you need.

In that case, a pause for thought might save your life, as well as someone else's.