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IMG_8271Uber today announced a new partnership with the City of Seattle to help curb drunk driving. The collaboration is part of Seattle’s Vision Zero initiative to end traffic collision-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

The city and Uber will roll out various efforts throughout 2016 as part of the deal. The first effort will be on display tonight at Kells Irish Pub — today is St. Patrick’s Day, for those of you who forgot to wear green — where Uber is setting up a new breathalyzer kiosk from 8 p.m to midnight. Everyone who “gives the breathalyzer a try” will get $15 in ride credits they can use for a free or discounted ride home. The goal is to educate folks about the legal blood-alcohol limit.

“We are really just focused on giving people information so they can make smart choices,” Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly said today at a media event. “We’re making it very visible that there are other options to take, other than driving home.”

Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly and Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger speak at a media event at Kells Irish Pub on Thursday.


Uber launched something similar in Toronto about a year ago, and Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger told GeekWire today that there are plans to launch another kiosk in Portland.

The kiosk seems to be largely promotional — can’t imagine Uber giving out free rides to anyone on a nightly basis — and will be placed at bars around the city on a temporary basis.

Here’s how it works:

A few media members asked Kubly about potential legal implications of the kiosk — for example, if the data recorded on the machine could be shared with law enforcement.

“You would have to ask the city attorney’s office on that,” he said.

We’ve reached out to the city’s attorney office with legal-related questions and will update this post with details. As you can see in one of the photos above, there is a legal waiver that Uber forces people to agree as part of the BAC reading:

“I understand that my blood alcohol content (BAC) can continue to rise long after consuming alcohol. I understand that the IntoxBox is an educational device designed to assist me in understanding what my BAC is.

I understand that the IntoxBox is a self-test, and not an administered or evidentiary test, and the IntoxBoxes results are not admissible in any legal proceeding including civil or criminal matters, including but not limited to DUI, DWI, OUI, BWI, criminal negligence or any other alcohol-related accident. I understand that the consumption of any amount of alcohol can affect my BAC and my ability to drive safely.

I specifically release the device manufacture, Precision Kiosk Technologies (PKT), and all PKT partners, advertisers, operations and sponsors from any and all legal actions which may occur after using the IntoxBox, and I release the establishment where the device is located from any legal liability relating to the use of the IntoxBox.”

Update: Here’s a statement from John Schochet, Deputy City Attorney for the City Attorney’s Office:

“It is illegal to drive impaired, and being below the per se limit of .08% BAC doesn’t automatically make driving legal. If someone is arrested for DUI, we’ll explore all available evidence regarding the driver’s impairment, although for purposes of proving a per se DUI we use either certified breathalyzer machines or blood tests. Use of the promotional machine is not a defense to a DUI if someone is impaired by alcohol and drives, but we obviously support efforts to offer and encourage alternatives to driving after people have been drinking.”

Uber released a study with MADD (which is also included in the new partnership) in 2014 that noted how the company’s service helped decrease DUI arrests in Seattle by 10 percent one year after Uber began operating in the city.

“We just want to raise awareness and make sure there is really no reason why people should be drinking and driving home,” Steger noted. 

Uber will also offer special uberHOP routes (uberHOP is Uber’s new carpooling service) on Thursday evening:

  • $2.00— Kells to Lower Queen Anne (Queen Anne Ave N & Mercer)
  • $2.50 – Kells to Capitol Hill (E Pike Street & Broadway)
  • $4.00 – Kells to Ballard (NW Market & 15th)

As part of the partnership, the city also gave out promotional coasters to more than 150 bars and clubs around Seattle neighborhoods with Uber discount codes.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with photos and more details.

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