Navy Discourages Drinking with Breathalyzers in Dorm
The success of a two-year program at the Naval Academy aimed at reducing alcohol abuse has lead the Navy to institute fleetwide breathalyzer testing.
Weekends at the U.S. Naval Academy are starting to look a little different due to the systematic use of Breathalyzer tests, according to the Navy Times.
Randomly administered tests using a device to test blood-alcohol levels have been part of life at the academy since 2004. In addition, the school launched an aggressive campaign two years ago to drive down alcohol abuse on campus. Its success has lead the Navy to implement fleetwide Breathalyzer tests this year.
Capt. Robert Clark, the academy commandant, told Navy Times that the school’s alcohol policy emphasizes educating midshipmen about responsible alcohol use.
Each of the school's six battalions randomly select two nights per month to test their midshipmen when they return to Bancroft Hall, which is the school's dormitory.
Most battalions pick a Friday or Saturday night because midshipmen—like most college students—are more likely to be drinking on the weekends. One senior at the academy told Navy Times that some midshipmen try to evade the tests by texting their friends back on campus to see if it's their battalion's night.
The Navy Times reports that if their blood alcohol content exceeds .08 percent, they are "flagged for intervention from their chain of command," according to academy policy. That could mean substance abuse treatment or even disciplinary action. But what—if anything—happens to the midshipman is largely left up to his or her commander's discretion.
Clark declined to give Navy Times an example of a time when failing a breath test had disciplinary repercussions. He did emphasize the drop in the number of major conduct offenses—the most serious category of misconduct—since the Breathalyzer program started.
In the 2010 to 2011 school year, there were approximately 400 of these infractions. While in 2011 to 2012 school year, that number drop by 61 percent to about 155.
Navy officials stressed that the tests at the academy are preventative, not punitive, and that the fleetwide tests will be conducted in the same manner.