Janice Morse reports:
Jeff Meadows, a West Chester-based attorney, earns nearly all his livelihood defending people who are charged with drunken driving.
Even Richard K. Jones, the sheriff of Butler County, where Meadows mostly practices, acknowledges: “Nobody deals in more DUIs than he does.”
But Meadows has started selling a device that he hopes will put him out of business: a portable, disposable breath test.
Called “TESTorARREST,” the device is a cigarette-sized clear plastic tube that sells for $9.99 for a two-pack. After a person breathes into the tube, a chemical inside interacts with breath alcohol. If the yellow crystals inside change to an aqua color, that indicates the person’s alcohol level exceeds 0.08, Ohio’s legal limit for drivers.
People who test over the limit may use their smart phones to access www.testorarrest.com to get “instant access to a local taxi,” Meadows said.
The device’s slogan: “If you don’t pass, stay off the gas!”
“It’s very inexpensive, costing the fraction of the price of a DUI attorney,” said Meadows, who practices with the Lyons & Lyons law firm. “A few dollars now versus a few thousand later makes it a no-brainer.”
The device is packaged with a disclaimer, telling consumers that abstaining from drinking alcohol is “the only way to be 100% certain that an individual is not impaired.”
Jones said the concept of self-testing for intoxication seems to be a good one. “If it keeps people who are legally intoxicated off the road, I’d think that would be a good thing. I can’t see any negative to that.”
Andrea Rehkamp, spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Southwestern Ohio Chapter, released a statement saying, “MADD advocates planning ahead and designating a sober driver before consuming any alcohol. MADD does not support the use of personal alcohol tests to assist a driver in making decisions about his or her ability to safely operate a motor vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages.”
Meadows’ business venture was born out of frustration. After 15 years of defending a seemingly endless stream of clients in drunk-driving cases, Meadows said he concluded that it made more sense to prevent the problem in the first place.
That objective is gaining traction nationally and internationally.
In the United States, studies are being done on the effectiveness and feasibility of equipping vehicles with infared systems that measure drivers’ blood-alcohol levels. The vehicles will not operate if drivers test at impaired levels.
In France, a law that took effect in July makes it illegal for anyone to drive without an approved breathalyzer, similar to Meadows’ device, inside the vehicle.
Meadows found the disposable breath-test technology by doing some Internet searches. U.S. military agencies and industrial companies have used it to test employees for alcohol use, Meadows said. The manufacturer, whom he declined to name, has not sold the device in retail outlets in the U.S.
“After months of discussion with the manufacturer, they finally agreed to allow me to distribute the product,” Meadows said. He has applied to trademark the brand name, “TESTorARREST.”
Meadows is targeting sales to places where people can buy alcohol: grocery stores, liquor stores, taverns, bowling alleys and marinas.
He and business partner, fellow lawyer Shane Herzner of Mount Lookout, pledge to donate 5 percent of sales profits to alcohol-education programs.
Meadows hopes the product will help further shift people’s attitudes and behavior about drinking and driving.
“I am not so naive to believe I will change the paradigm overnight,” he said.
Still, Meadows hopes he can get drivers to realize they should either not drink at all or they should test themselves before getting behind the wheel. People need to be aware that a drunk-driving charge can cost a person thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees, “not to mention the possibility of loss of life or freedom,” he said.