Do personal breathalyzer apps work?

breathalyzerIf you’ve ever been stopped by the police and asked to submit to a sobriety test you have probably seen a handheld breathalyzer. These devices are highly calibrated to give the most accurate blood alcohol readings possible and are controlled by the board of health with very strict rules as to how they can be used. That’s why police breathalyzers are accurate enough to have the readings submitted to the courts as evidence in DUI cases.

But did you know you could also test your blood alcohol or level intoxication with the one device you most often have in your hand, pocket, or purse? New apps are hitting the market that will allow you to determine your blood alcohol level right on your smartphone. But are they as accurate as an actual police sanctioned breathalyzer?

Breathometer, a new app by Charles Yim, has made headlines recently after it was demonstrated on the ABC TV show ‘Shark Tank.’ To test blood alcohol levels an individual simply blows into the smartphone and waits for a reading. Comparisons between the Breathometer and the BACtrack device used by law enforcement showed a small difference in BAC levels, with one volunteer blowing .07 on the Breathometer and .89 on the BACtrack.

Another app, BreathalEyes, uses the camera on the iPhone to record your eye movements and measures twitches or jerks. Otherwise known as Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, this measurement is used by BreathalEyes to deliver an approximate guess of the person’s blood alcohol level. Be warned if you use this app – it includes disclaimers that state it’s not as accurate as an actual breathalyzer.

The benefit to apps such as BreathalEyes and Breathometer are that, if you are out for a night on the town, they can give you a good estimate of how intoxicated you are. Having it on your phone may also serve as a good reminder not to drink and drive when your judgment may be shaky due to alcohol consumption.

But there is danger in relying on an app to determine whether you drink and drive. These personal breathalyzer apps are not as accurate as a police sanctioned handheld breathalyzer device, and they may give you false confidence because you register under the legal limit blood alcohol limit on your phone.

No matter what the reading is on your personal breathalyzer app, for your safety and the safety of others on the road with you, be sure to hand over the keys before you drink.