Zouk tests pee to spot drink-drivers

SINGAPORE - Popular nightspot Zouk recently came up with an initiative to identify potential drink-drivers - by testing their urine.

In a two-week pilot in April, the Jiak Kim Street club, together with advertising agency DDB Group Singapore, rolled out a system comprising valet-parking cards installed with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. These were handed out to male patrons who used the club's valet service to park their vehicles.

Urinals fitted with "pee analysers" - urine-testing devices designed to reset instantly for consecutive readings - then analysed and recorded the blood-alcohol level of patrons, tagging the information to the valet cards, when they used the restroom.

Those found to be over the legal limit were flashed a warning message on the spot, suggesting that they take a cab home, or engage the club's drive-home service.

Another RFID reader at the club's valet station would flash a similar warning when such drivers retrieve their vehicles.

Of the 573 drivers tested during the pilot period, 342 heeded the club's advice not to drive home. The legal limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath, usually determined by breathalyser test.

Zouk's marketing and business-development manager, Ms Sofie Chandra, said: "The general response has been very positive, especially on its novel and interactive concept."

During the pilot, the system was installed only in the club's male toilets. This is because statistics showed the percentage of male drink-driving offenders was "much higher", Ms Chandra added.

The system could be expanded to include female patrons in the future, as Zouk intends to install the system permanently, depending on the investors it manages to get.

My Paper understands the system may be rolled out to other nightspots here.

Bank executive Randall Ong, 26, feels the initiative was effective in serving as a "reminder to think twice", but that patrons could still beat the system.

He said: "To avoid being labelled as 'drunk' by the reader, drivers could easily pass their (valet) cards to friends who aren't drinking, so the tagging would not be accurate."

Assistant manager Stella Lee, 28, said: "The club can't force people to take a cab or avoid driving, even if the device says they are over the limit...stubborn drivers will insist that they are still okay."

Figures from the Traffic Police showed that 1,540 people were arrested for drink-driving in the first six months of this year, a 9.8 per cent increase compared to 1,403 in the same period last year. In total, 2,917 people were arrested for drink-driving last year, compared to 2,735 in 2011.

The Traffic Police declined to comment on the effectiveness of Zouk's initiative, but a spokesman said it was "heartening" that it resulted in the club's patrons opting not to drive after they had consumed alcohol.

The spokesman added: "Such road-safety efforts are commendable and should be encouraged. It is only with such efforts from the community that we can build a culture where drink-driving is eschewed by society."


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