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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 10:59 pm | Fair 51º


Santa Barbara Police Hit the Bars to Combat Drunken Driving

Officers offer patrons voluntary breathalyzer tests to help educate them about alcohol consumption

A bar patron takes a voluntary breathalyzer test offered by Santa Barbara police officers as part of the Know Your Limits campaign aimed at reducing drunken driving.
A bar patron takes a voluntary breathalyzer test offered by Santa Barbara police officers as part of the Know Your Limits campaign aimed at reducing drunken driving. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

As Santa Barbara police Sgt. Mike Brown strolled into a lively, red-lit lounge filled with alcohol-infused customers on a recent Friday night, the bar patrons watched him nervously over their shoulders. 

But Brown wasn’t there to check IDs or hand out citations. Rather, he offered voluntary breathalyzer tests to the bar patrons.

Brown, joined by officers Mark Corbett, Sean Cozzens and Kristen Kim, took breath samples from 37 willing participants at two dining and drinking establishments during a three-hour Know Your Limits event — part of an educational campaign that aims to tackle the truth about driving while intoxicated and the effects of alcohol on the body.

Police in Santa Barbara arrested more than 2,000 people in 2012 on suspicion of driving under the influence, according to the annual report of the California DUI Management Information System.

Brown and his colleagues began at the Wildcat Lounge, then moved down State Street to the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company.

Brown received approval from establishment owners and restaurant managers before the officers entered.

​The Police Department teamed up with the taverns to run the campaign in hopes of informing patrons on how the number of drinks the consume affects their blood-alcohol concentration.

Santa Barbara police officers check the results of a voluntary breathalyzer test offered to a bar patron as part of the Know Your Limits campaign aimed at reducing drunken driving. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara police officers check the results of a voluntary breathalyzer test offered to a bar patron as part of the Know Your Limits campaign aimed at reducing drunken driving. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Dan Mazur, general manager of Figueroa Mountain's Santa Barbara location, helped set up the event with Brown. 

"Creating an atmosphere where customers can enjoy themselves is very important to us," Mazur said. "By partnering with the SBPD, we were able to help educate customers about intoxication so that we can provide a safe environment for guests."

Officers asked individuals how much they’d had to drink, and whether they thought they could safely drive. They made it clear to customers that they were there to inform, not hand out tickets.​

Pedro Francisco, a 34-year-old Santa Barbara resident, had taken a few sips of his beer across the evening, and blew under the legal breath-alcohol concentration for drivers in California, which is .08 percent.

He said the awareness campaign in the easy going bar atmosphere made officers approachable.

“It is good for citizens and cops to speak to each other without getting in trouble,” Francisco said. “It is cool the cops get to know people as regulars.”

A breath-alcohol level under the legal limit doesn’t always prevent an individual from being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Brown, who has worked for the Police Department for 18 years, said officers can ticket under California law if a driver has a skewed perception with alcohol in their system.

The rate of consumption, food intake, weight and gender are factors of a person’s alcohol level, officers explained.

“The old wise tale is, ‘If I drink one beer an hour, I am good,’” Brown said. “It depends on how long you are out drinking beers.”

Officers explained how alcohol testing converts blood alcohol to breath alcohol results. According to the California Vehicle Code, the percent of alcohol in a person’s blood is based upon grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

Officers explained the DUI penalties in California, and suggested alternatives to driving, such as ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

California DUI law allows up to six months in jail, license suspension, increased insurance rates, and fines up to $1,000, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Danielle Landre, a 23-year-old Ventura native, had multiple glasses of wine and just stepped off the Land Shark tour before heading to Wildcat. Landre said she would not feel comfortable driving.

She blew into the breathalyzer and her reading was over California’s legal limit.

Figueroa Mountain's Bar Manager Lindsay Summer said the campaign was a positive experience for customers.

“It was a busy night, but we saw people being interactive with the officers,” Summer said while working behind the bar. “It was fun because some of the police were talking about their favorite beers.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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