Drinkers can test alcohol levels


If you’re going out for a night on the town in Grand Cayman, you can test your blood alcohol level at several local bars that now have devices allowing customers to do so.

Police said those tests probably aren’t very accurate, but it only costs a dollar. Several establishments have installed the ‘Alco-buddy’ machine. If you haven’t seen this item, it’s about two feet long and a foot wide apparatus with blinking lights, typically attached to a wall of the establishment.

After inserting a dollar into the machine, users can take a straw from the bottom, wait for a brief countdown and start blowing into a hole on the left side of the device. Once this process is complete, the Alco-buddy will provide a blood alcohol content reading and give a green-coloured thumbs up or a red-coloured warning that you shouldn’t be driving.

In the Cayman Islands, a blood alcohol content of 0.10 per cent is considered over the legal limit.

The problem with this process, according to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, is that people might mistake the reading the Alco-Buddy machine gives them as being correct. The game does include a disclaimer that states “For entertainment purposes only” on the upper right side.

“I understand the clubs and bars may think that they are helping,” said RCIPS Chief Inspector Angelique Howell. “They probably have good intentions in doing this, but it is highly dangerous in the sense that you cannot rely on [the machine].”

“It is not gazetted and it is not calibrated,” Ms Howell added, which essentially means the Alco-buddy test will not be a defence in court.

Local bar staff realise this, and in fact, the Doghouse has placed the machine in its games section at the back of the bar.

Manager Troy Cole said the establishment was approached a few weeks ago about buying the machine and decided to give it a go. Mr. Cole said they realised right away the thing wasn’t at all accurate. “We’ve contacted the guy who sold it to us to see if he can’t make it a little more accurate,” he said.

Other locales said, even if the machine really doesn’t work properly, they have seen evidence that it does prevent people who are over the limit from driving home.

“A lot of people do use it and when it says they’re over the limit, they do call a cab,” said Phil Parchment, a bartender at Coconut Joe’s.

Drink driving is always a concern for the RCIPS around the holiday season especially, and police reports indicate there have been about a dozen arrests for it since late November.

Chief Inspector Howell said drivers should always err on the side of caution if they’ve been out partying.

“They have to decide if they want to rely on a machine in a bar or if they want to just keep it safe and just don’t drink and drive,” she said.


The Alco-buddy machine is “for entertainment purposes only”.
Photo: Brent Fuller


  1. The machine is in fact calibrated and accurate up to (+/- .o1)in other words pretty accurate(check website)

    The thing to remember is you should not chug a drink then run to machine and expect an accurate reading as your breath will read highly intoxicated.For most accurate reading a patron should test themselves when they have had at least 10 minutes since last drink.

    This is a positive social solution.

  2. The third to last paragraph has "Drink driving is always", shouldn’t it be "Drunk"?

    Editor’s note: Actually, ‘drink driving’ is the UK-English version. US English would use ‘drunk driving’ or ‘drunken driving’. But either is acceptable.

  3. Creative, Fun and Unique product providing a valuable service, like it or not this will compliment the efforts of the RCIP and National Drug Council, especially for the Christmas season.

    I applaud the efforts of the establishments for looking to make a difference.

  4. A lot of people do use it and when it says theyre over the limit, they do call a cab, said Phil Parchment, a bartender at Coconut Joes.

    Promoting responsible behavior and ultimately saving lives Im on board.

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