“Choose me,” the man told the deputy. “I’m drunk.”
It’s not a common thing to hear, but neither is it common to have scores of beer-swilling revelers hooting and hollering as they line up to voluntarily blow into a breathalyzer.
But that was the scene for a few hours Saturday, July 14 at the Orange County Fair, where a team of traffic deputies and other Orange County Sheriff’s Department unit personnel conducted “Know Your Limit,” a public DUI education campaign.
The venue was the Brew Hee Haw, a showcase of more than 80 craft beer vendors who served up IPAs and other high-octane giggle juice in 3-ounce cups to people who paid around $50 to slam down as much as they pleased in four hours.
It was quite the brouhaha, with many drinkers gleefully rolling video and snapping selfies as they competed to see who in their party was the most sauced.
Funded by a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety, “Know Your Limit” is designed to make people better aware of what their blood alcohol level is after a drink or two – or several.
For the current grant year, the OCSD plans on completing 12 “Know Your Limit” events — including five at the OC Fair at different venues where hooch is served, said Sgt. Brian Sims.
“The people we worry about are the ones who think, ‘Yeah, I can drive’ and then they blow a .14,” said Sims.
The legal breath alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers in the U.S. is .08, which means if your number is that or higher, you can be arrested for driving under the influence. For commercial drivers, a BAC of .04 percent can result in a DUI or DWI conviction.
The man dying to blow into the breathalyzer — Wes, 36, of Santa Ana — said he had consumed “between 10 and 20, I don’t know” samples of beer. And before entering the Brew Hee Haw, he had enjoyed some wine.
“I Ubered here, and I’m definitely Ubering home,” said Wes, who figured he might blow a .20.
He actually blew a .221, nearly three times the legal limit.
Wes then disappeared into the throng with 90 minutes until closing time at the noon-4 p.m. session, the first of two that day at the Brew Hee Haw, which only was open July 14.
The OCSD tested 293 people over the course of the two sessions.
“Oh my God, can I try that?” a woman who spotted the deputies under a tent said at the beer-tasting party, which featured blaring music and sing-alongs.
“This tends to be one of our more chaotic events,” Deputy Kyle Ishii said.
Sure, it was fun — but the drinkers knew the point of the event was serious.
“Thanks for being out here,” a man who hit .248 told the deputies.
Ashley Mansville, of Buena Park, said she stops after one drink if she knows she’ll be driving.
“I 100-percent support this,” Mansville said of ‘Know Your Limit.’ “I feel my tax dollars are being put to good use.”
A man who blew a .083 — just over the threshold — asked Deputy Mike Evans how long he should wait before he drove.
“An hour,” advised the deputy, part of the OCSD team that also included Deputies Richard Oates, Office Specialist Lisa Lebron, Office Specialist Lety Banderas, and Staff Specialist Catalina Reyes.
“One lady told me this was the most fun she’s had at the fair,” Banderas said.
“Yeah, I’ll take that,” said a 23-year-old man who scored a sloshed .175.
A woman, Carly, said she felt drunk but not too drunk. She predicted she would score a .15.
She topped out at an eye-blurring .26 on the Alco-Sensor.
“I’ve done a lot of training to get to this point,” said Carly, of Placentia.
Michael, 33, of Lake Forest took the test along with his wife, Yvette, 35.
He blew a .16, she scored a .14.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Michael said of the OCSD event. He added that he and his wife were taking a taxi home.
Hans, of Anaheim, was celebrating his 54th birthday at the Brew Hee Haw.
He said he didn’t feel comfortable getting behind the wheel of a car.
He legally was not drunk, however, scoring a .067.
“I think too many (intoxicated) people take chances all the time,” said Hans.
“These are the people we want,” Sims said of Hans. “It’s about being responsible and not putting other people in jeopardy.”