Good ideas can come from anywhere. That was the case of Jason Knott, owner and founder of BreathAdvisor, who turned a near miss with a drunk driving charge into his new business. BreathAdvisor is a new Utah-based company that puts kiosk breathalyzers in bars, including a handful of locations in Park City.
"I think from what we've seen already, people like the idea," Knott said. "I think people want to do the right thing, they don't want to drive drunk. We are giving people the opportunity to make the right decision before they leave the bar."
Knott came up with the idea when he was still a student at Westminster College. A group of friends drove to a neighborhood bar in Salt Lake City. Knott was planning to call a taxi when they were ready to leave. When the cab arrived, a friend had taken it, leaving Knott and the rest of the group at the bar. Deciding he was probably fine to drive, going as far to walk a few straight lines in the parking lot, Knott started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.
He was pulled over immediately by a police officer who put him through a round of field sobriety tests, which he passed. It was not until he used the breathalyzer that he realized he was so close to the limit. He was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.081, just .001 over the legal limit.
"I thought I was screwed," Knott said. "When the police officer came back to the car, I told him if I went to jail I would lose my job. He said he was not giving me a DUI, but that I needed to pull the car over and call a cab, which I did.
From there, Knott decided to start researching breathalyzer, if any products existed already. Though several are currently on the market, what he noticed was that most machines could not accurately read alcohol levels. He tested a machine he found in a bar along the Wasatch Front. Even though he had several drinks in his system, his blood alcohol level tested at 0.02. Another person who used the machine tested at 0.4, a blood alcohol level that would put most people in the hospital.
"The products out there seemed like cheap, hokey machines," Knott said, "They're for entertainment purposes."
"A lot of people beat us to the punch, getting something out to market before us," he added, "but it seemed premature. The product was not there yet."
When Knott started to program his own version of kiosk breathalyzers, a product he has dubbed BreathAdvisor, accuracy was a big part of the plan. Using the same technology as police officers, Knott created an easy-to-use kiosk he likened to RedBox, with touch screen features and step-by-step instructions.
The first machines were installed around Northern Utah this month, with two in Park City. One kiosk was installed on Saturday at the Wasatch Brew Pub and another is set to be installed in Cisero's Restaurant. Charging $2 per test, the machines boast an accuracy rate within +/- 0.005.
With more developments underway, BreathAdvisor hopes to link machines with taxi dispatch services and eventually offer free breathalyzer tests with the help of sponsors. There is also room for tablet-based breathalyzer technology, he said.
"There is a lot of opportunity here," Knott said. " With something so new, you have to see people using it. There are going to be changes, kinks that need to be fixed. It's a learning process, but we're hoping to prove this concept has weight in Utah."