Gary Baker exhaled a slow, steady breath into the breathalyzer and waited.
A .104 flashed on the screen.
Over the limit.
No arrest followed, no drunken driving charge.
The Huntington Beach police officer who administered the test instead thanked Baker.
Typically, that’s not how this kind of interaction between bar patron and officer would go, but Baker was in a bar, not his vehicle, and he volunteered for the test.
Baker, 65, was one of 46 people to opt for an alcohol breath test Friday night as part of the Huntington Beach Police Department’s Know Your Limit campaign.
“I didn’t think I was over (the limit),” said Baker, who walked to Hurricanes Bar and Grill from his downtown home Friday night. “I’ve only been drinking beer, but I have been here (a few hours).”
This is the fourth time Huntington Beach police walked through local bars to educate the public on just how much, or how little, it takes to be over the legal blood alcohol level of .08 percent.
The educational campaign was launched in response to community concerns about the number of drunken drivers on the road, and the frequency of alcohol-induced traffic collisions.
Huntington Beach has seen 13 fatal traffic collisions so far this year. In about 50 percent of those collisions, alcohol played a role, said Sgt. David Dereszynski.
“Our goal is to stop this,” Dereszynski said. “If we can do that through education then we don’t need to make an arrest later, and we don’t need to see the aftermath that drunk driving causes.”
Friday night’s walk included visits to Baja Sharkeez, Hurricanes Bar and Grill, Gallagher’s Pub and Grill and Aloha Grill.
These restaurants, which welcomed the officers and their campaign, have received letters from the police department about the high number of drunken driving arrests related to their businesses.
“We spoke to several people who had been arrested for DUI before, and they said had there been something like this to educate them about their (blood alcohol) levels before, they might not have been arrested,” Dereszynski said.
Josh Ellin, 37, was two vodka drinks and three Rumplemintz shots in when the officers approached him.
“I wouldn’t drive, but I think I’m OK,” said Ellin, who lives nearby and walked to the bar.
He thought right.
A .061 flashed on the breathalyzer.
“That will change in about an hour,” Dereszynski said of the low reading.
Huntington Beach is the first city in Southern California to implement the Know Your Limit campaign, which is funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Several other agencies interested in launching the program, including Anaheim and some Los Angeles County police departments, have tagged along with Huntington Beach to see how it is received in the community.
“This isn’t just a Huntington Beach problem, but an Orange County and a national problem,” Dereszynski said. “Working together, we could reach more people and address the issue on a larger scale.”
Huntington Beach expects the grant to cover Know Your Limit for about a year, and the department plans to hold monthly walk-alongs starting in October, Dereszynski said.