Before getting behind the wheel, drivers can test their blood alcohol level with new apps that not only give a blood alcohol reading, but also calls a cab.
Breathometer, for iPhones
and Android smart phones, and BACtrack, for iPhones, display a user's blood
alcohol level within seconds on smart phone-connected breathalysers.
"People think, 'Oh,
I'm driving around the corner,' but it's not until they get pulled over that
they realise they're over the limit," said Charles Michael Yim, chief
executive of Breathometer, based in Burlingame, California.
More than 1.2 million
people were arrested in the United States in 2011 for driving under the
influence, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data.
Yim said his company's aim
is to prevent drunk driving by raising awareness of alcohol levels and enabling
drivers to make smarter decisions.
Accuracy within 0.01%
The Breathometer plugs into
a smart phone's headphone jack, and the user blows on the device. The BACtrack
connects to the iPhone via Bluetooth. Both use sensors that meet US Food and
Drug Administration standards and can detect blood alcohol levels with accuracy
within 0.01%, according to the companies.
Yim said breathalysers have been
around since the 1950s, and by pairing them with smart phones, making them
smaller and more cost effective, more people will be able to use them.
"We are catering to a
completely different audience that wouldn't have considered buying one
before," he said.
is the size of a car key and fits into a pocket or on a key chain. The app can
detect a user's GPS location, order a cab if the user can't drive home, and
estimate how long it will take for the user to become sober.
"Just checking blood
alcohol levels can help you be more aware of your body. If you blow 0.02% or
0.04% you might think, 'I better stop drinking,'" Yim said.
In all 50 US states, a
blood alcohol level above 0.08% is considered drunk driving. The National
Transportation Safety Board is recommending the limit be reduced to 0.05%. More
than 10 000 people died in drunk driving accidents in the United States in
2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Breathometer app reads
signals after the user has blown into the breathalyser. An ethanol sensor
embedded in the device detects alcohol on the breath and converts this into a
signal, which the app processes.
The app, which costs $49,
will be released worldwide in October on the Internet and in stores the
BACtrack, founded in 2001, was the first company to receive US government
clearance to sell breathalysers for personal use. Its breathalyser, which
includes a mouthpiece, costs $150.
The app also tracks a
user's drinking habits in a graph, and can estimate when a user's blood alcohol
level will return to zero. Users can also share their blood alcohol levels
through text message, Facebook or Twitter.
"It's not about
whether you're at 0.05% or 0.08%. If you even have 0.01% you should not be
driving," said Yim.