Back in August, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) gave 475 people with DUI convictions a smartphone breathalyser, a mobile device that can estimate one’s blood alcohol level instantly. Now CDOT has surveyed the participants, and the results are hugely positive: Ninety per cent said the breathalyser helped them avoid driving while impaired and 94 per cent said they would recommend the product to anyone who drinks regularly.
Buzzed driving – driving after you’ve consumed alcohol, but are below legal limits – can still be fatal. Among other things, the survey found that people routinely overestimated their ability to drive after a few drinks before receiving the breathalysers, even after they faced the consequences of a DUI conviction. It’s been discussed many times in many contexts, but arrests and fines alone don’t always produce a change in behaviour.
CDOT’s trial was done in partnership with BACtrack, which makes the smartphone breathalysers. Essentially, the company has an app linked to a mini breathalyser that can then connect to your phone via Bluetooth. It provides an instant estimate of your blood alcohol content (BAC), and users can order an Uber or taxi directly through the app. They run between $US100 ($132) and $US150 ($198). Steep, but a far cry from the roughly $US13,000 ($17,185) in legal fees associated with a first-time DUI conviction in Colorado.
The survey explored the enormous gap between how impaired someone “feels” after a few drinks and their actual BAC. Before the survey, a troubling 15 per cent of participants didn’t know that a BAC of .08 is required for a DUI conviction in Colorado, and an even more troubling 41 per cent didn’t know that a BAC of .05 met Colorado’s legal threshold for driving while impaired. According to CDOT, one participant was convicted of a DUI in the six weeks since the breathalysers were given out.