Bill Would Mandate Breathalyzers in North Dakota Bars


Drunk driving is a problem in North Dakota, thanks to a one-two punch of a cultural affinity for alcohol here coupled with a lot wide open spaces and long roads home. Even in the state’s larger communities, historically it’s not been easy to get public transportation or even a cab ride home.

But would a mandate for breathalyzers in bars really help that problem? SB2206, introduced by Senator Kathy Hogan (D-Fargo) would require that bars sell breathalyzer kits or be guilty of a class B misdemeanor:


The full bill is below.

I wasn’t aware of it but apparently small breathalyzers – so small some can fit on a key ring -are a thing you can buy in America in 2019. I can’t speak to their efficacy. As a matter of public policy, however, it’s hard to see how this helps.

I’m guessing there is a fairly broad spectrum when it comes to the reliability of these devices. What if a bar sells a patron a faulty breathalyzer, and based on its readings the (in reality inebriated) patron chooses to drive home and gets a ticket? Or, worse, hurts themselves or someone else? Is the bar liable?

And is the problem with drunk driving that the drunks who are driving don’t know they’re drunk? Because I suspect a very high percentage of them know they’re drunk, and choose to drive home anyway, whatever their reasoning.

A better way to combat drunk driving isn’t a mandate like this. It’s work towards making it easier for people who have been drinking to find a safe ride home. That’s an area where we are improving. With DUI’s on the decline, some are crediting the availability of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft. We don’t have enough data yet to say conclusively that they’re reducing drunk driving, but it wouldn’t be hard to believe it either.

Responsible people will choose a safe ride home if one is available. Irresponsible people will probably be irresponsible whatever choices are before them. How about we don’t burden our state’s businesses with a silly mandate which will make little difference?

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