BALTIMORE – A computer program that tells drinkers when their blood alcohol concentration is past the legal limit was showcased Thursday when a national alcohol awareness group set up shop in the Inner Harbor.
The Los Angeles-based Century Council demonstrated its educational computer program, which is designed to help adults of legal drinking age understand the factors that affect blood alcohol concentration.
“When you get to consuming an alcoholic beverage, there are many warning signs along the way,” said Bill Georges, vice president of traffic safety for the Century Council. “We’re trying to educate people about the effects.”
The group’s stop in Baltimore was part of a national response to a recent survey revealing that 70 percent of adults don’t know their state’s drunken driving laws, and only 30 percent of the public knew their state’s blood alcohol limit for driving.
Maryland’s blood alcohol limit is .10. A bill to lower it to .08 failed last session.
Users of the Century Council program clicked on images of beer, wine, or mixed drinks as the computer translated their picks into a specific blood alcohol limit, based on their submitted weight and gender and how fast they chose to drink – “sip,” “drink” or “slam” were the choices.
The program is new, but is based on a University of Illinois program called “Alcohol 101,” said Pam Beer, mid-Atlantic director for the council. The pilot program came to Charm City from a 12-city tour of Texas, where legislators recently passed a .08 blood alcohol limit. It will stop at Montgomery Mall today and Landover Mall Saturday.
Sgt. Robert Miller, a Baltimore traffic investigator who attended, said he recently volunteered to get drunk to show other officers how to perform a standard field sobriety test.
He said he didn’t realize how few beers it took to get him drunk. “You think, `Oh, I can do these tests with no problem,’ until you go out there and do it,'” Miller said.
Maryland Trooper Mike Tagliaferri agreed.
“Everybody thinks they can do well on field sobriety because they don’t know what clues we’re looking for,” Tagliaferri said. “Only once they’re taken back to the barracks and they take the chemical breath test, once they see the scientific results, they’ll realize that they’re over the limit.”
Mike Wilson, a Baltimore resident, was one of a handful of people who took time to try the program and down a few virtual beers Thursday afternoon.
“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Wilson said. “They ought to have one down here on New Year’s Eve.”
Baltimore electrician Joe Marcellino also tried the program. He said he thought it was valuable but somewhat unrealistic.
“When I’m out getting fired up, who’s gonna sit there and think `I’m going to have four beers and then stop,'” he said. “Who does that? Nobody does.”
At the beginning of the computer game, Marcellino was asked if he wanted “The Easy Way” – to go straight to the blood alcohol limit measurement test – or if he wanted “The Hard Way.” Those who pick the latter are shown a short film about a drunken driving arrest.
Marcellino completed his test with a .097 blood alcohol level after slamming six virtual beers in a virtual hour. He said he’s been pulled over four times for drunken driving, one incident landing him in jail.
“I learned the hard way,” he said.
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