Breathalyzers coming to D.C. bars

Bar patrons in the District will soon be able to see their BAC before leaving.

Breathalyzers are coming to D.C. area bars, telling patrons their blood-alcohol level before they step out the door.

The National Highway Safety Administration reports that a drunk driver kills someone every 40 minutes in this country. Six years ago, Kevin Melanson became one of those drivers. That’s why he wants to see these breathalyzers installed in every area bar. For Melanson, its more than just business—its personal.

Kevin Melanson lost his best friend to a drunk driver

“Mike's my best friend and neighbor,” Melanson said.

Melanson was the drunk driver. He crashed his car in 2006 after a night of partying, Mike was riding in the seat next to him.

“He didn't survive and I was put in a five and a half day coma,” Melanson said.

His traumatic brain injury will last a lifetime but Melanson is trying to right his wrong, the only way he knows how.

“This is for just trying to prevent, whether it's one, two, 10, 100 people, down the road from having to go through the same situation,” he said.

Bethesda's The Harp and Fiddle is the first bar in the metro region with a breathalyzer—Melanson installed the machine.

“On an average Friday or Saturday night a lot of people use it. People seem to think it's fun,” said Tony Marzella, a server at The Harp and Fiddle.

For a dollar, Micheall Myrie is learning his blood alcohol level—three drinks into happy hour.

“I Think this type of machine in a bar allows people to be more responsible,” Myrie said.

Drunken driving crashes claimed 370 lives in D.C, Maryland and Virginia last year—nearly 30 percent of all fatal wrecks.

“For that respect, I think it's a good thing that it's there because there are people who shouldn't drive home,” Marzella said.

Melanson hopes to get these machines in more bars -- motivated by his past and hoping for a safer future.

“It's one of those things where I try to tell myself, yesterday's history and we're living in today,” Melanson said.

Melanson says the machine is as accurate as a police breathalyzer—down to hundredths of a percentage. But, neither the bar, nor the company that makes the machines, holds any legal liability and the results aren't recorded. It's also not admissible in a court, so Melanson wants people to know this is a good way to gauge how much they've had to drink.