Students using alcohol on campus have a new way to judge their intoxication level as well as prevent their friends from drinking and driving – the Guardian Angel Personal Alcohol Test.

Paul Wong
The “Guardian Angel” alcohol-level tester is on sale at In and Out on East University Avenue. The kit provides a way for drinkers to measure their ability to operate heavy machinery, like cars.

Users soak a test strip with saliva and compare its color two minutes later with a chart included with the product. Using the included “risk meter,” the user estimates whether their blood alcohol level is “highly indicative of risk.”

“People don’t have a clue how few drinks it takes to put their driving at risk,” said Guardian Angel Vice President Jeff Scult. “The product is not intended to green-light driving, but rather to help people understand the risk they’re taking if they do.”

But if people are drinking and driving, they already know the risks involved, said Gail Epstein, bartender at Ashley’s on South State Street.

“(The strips) are not going to deter people from driving. If they’re going to drink and drive, they will anyway. Actually knowing their blood alcohol level will not stop them from starting the ignition,” she said.

“The strips have some utility, but when you’re drinking, you have to know your own limit and have friends that will tell you when you’ve reached it. I have friends I would trust over a test strip,” said Rackham student Paul Bohensky.

Scult said the product is actually intended as an intervention tool for people who think their friends aren’t OK to drive. “Every friend has a friend that is more sober than them,” he said.

He added that the strips are also meant for well-intentioned adults who use the product throughout the evening to monitor their drinking.

Whether the strips are encouraged by friends or purchased by the drinkers themselves, the drinkers’ sense of judgement must be used, Bohensky said. “My question is, how accurate are they?”

Scult said the strips have been proven reliable in lab tests and by law enforcement agencies in at least 15 states. Tim DeGlopper, a bartender at Red Hawk Grill on South State Street, believes differently.

“I’ve heard they’re not very accurate,” he said. “If you compare them with an actual breathalyzer, the strips show a couple points lower.”

“Of course, that doesn’t mean breathalyzers are right either – they could be purposely too high,” he added.

Whether or not they are reliable, DeGlopper said the strips are not a bad idea.

“A lot of people definitely don’t realize how few drinks it takes to put you over the legal limit,” he said. He added that police can give tickets for driving while impaired, which is defined as having a blood alcohol level of .08.

Scult said the strips are extremely popular on campuses nationwide. Sororities and fraternities purchase them in “party packs” that they hand out at gatherings, and many campuses sell them at bookstores, he said.

In and Out on East University Avenue and the Diag Party Shoppe on South State Street are the only places in Ann Arbor selling the strips. Employees at both stores said the product is not a big seller.

Although Scult said the product is a popular part of DUI prevention programs at law enforcement agencies, workers at both the state of Michigan and Ann Arbor police departments had never heard of the product.

In response Scult said the product hasn’t had a chance to get to Ann Arbor, but that the product and “party packs” are available online at www.drugstore.com.

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