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Do breathalyzer apps cut down on drunk driving?

It is the holiday season, which means parties. Whether at a gathering of family and friends or a work event, it can sometimes be difficult to know when that one last drink pushes you over the legal limit to drive.

That is one reason why breathalyzer apps have become popular. The Colorado Department of Transportation has encouraged the use of personal breathalyzers, at one point even pairing with a private breathalyzer company to offer discounted devices.

But do they actually help reduce drunk driving?

Breathalyzers are not fully accurate

While breathalyzers can be used as a general indicator of blood alcohol content, they are not as accurate as blood tests. For example:

  • Breathalyzers decrease in accuracy over time and must be recalibrated.
  • Because alcohol can take some time to enter the bloodstream, your BAC can increase between the time you take the test and a few minutes later, after you get behind the wheel.
  • Not all breathalyzers are the same. For example, relatively cheap breathalyzers are available to put on your keychain, but do not provide a reliable measurement of blood alcohol content. A keychain breathalyzer should not be used as anything but a conversation starter. Even the higher-end breathalyzers used by police have been known to provide inaccurate measurements.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving recommends avoiding their use altogether. It is much easier, they argue, to designate a driver who is not drinking at all or to use one of the many alternatives available, from public transportation to a ridesharing service.

May be beneficial to raise awareness of DUI

Simply being aware that you may be close to the legal limit can cut down on drunk driving. If your breathalyzer is measuring a .07 BAC, for example, get a ride home and avoid putting any lives in danger. Even if your breathalyzer is accurate, that amount of alcohol can still cut down on reaction time and impair judgment. If a coworker, friend or relative is intoxicated, you can use the breathalyzer measurement to get cooperation on finding a safe way home.

Certainly, anything that cuts down the risk of DUI is good; however, a personal breathalyzer should be used as a way to be extra cautious this holiday season, not as a sure-fire way to detect BAC and drink as much as possible without going over the limit. Doing so is a recipe for putting lives at risk.

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