Breathalyzer Apps – Do They Work?
Conventional breathalyzers analyze the concentration of alcohol on one’s breath. They rely upon a chemical reaction with alcohol and a series of photocells to detect the nature of the reaction and thus the amount of alcohol. No matter how advanced mobile phones have become in recent years, mobile phones simply lack the hardware to act as a proper breathalyzer. However, some innovative application developers have developed other systems designed to detect the amount of alcohol in one’s system.
The most common type of software is the intoxication calculator. In the past, calculating blood alcohol content from the amount of alcohol consumed required users to consult a chart and balance the number of drinks against the time of ingestion. Smartphone applications allow users to take into account additional factors such as weight, the rate of consumption, and gender. Additionally, mobile phone applications permit users to input the type of drink that they are consuming and the amount, thus preventing any confusion over what constitutes a “drink.”
These applications are based upon a sound science. If all information is entered correctly, the application will deliver a highly accurate number for the user. However, on many occasions, the numbers are not entered correctly. Additionally, each bartender will mix drinks differently, so the units associated with pre-loaded drinks may not compute precisely. Even if the numbers have been entered accurately, a DUI attorney in Orlando or New York could agree to the fact that a potential driver should not trust the data if it comes out even close to the legal limit.
Another useful tool applications are utilizing are Horizontal gaze nystagmus. This is the tendency for eyes to involuntarily shift slightly from side to side with intoxication. Police officers experienced in handling intoxicated motorists routinely use this method to determine whether an individual is highly intoxicated. Individuals will react to levels of alcohol differently; some individuals with particularly high concentrations of alcohol may be able to walk a straight line and hold a conversation. Nystagmus occurs as intoxication increases regardless of one’s tolerance of alcohol.
For individuals untrained in detecting nystagmus, detecting it and quantifying it into actionable data is almost impossible. A popular application for iPhones called BreathalEyes uses the phone’s camera as a visual sensor to determine the presence of any eye fluctuations. The application requires subjects to look far to the left or right for the duration of the test. When the test is complete, it will produce what the application believes is the subject’s blood alcohol content.
As with any program relying upon a visual sensor, the lighting must be adequate to detect the eye movement. The trouble with a nystagmus test is that nystagmus is not unique to alcohol intoxication. It can substantiate other factors. A wide array of neurological and physiological conditions can induce nystagmus. Disorientation can also result in nystagmus. The presence of environmental stimuli can also alter the results during the test, as the subject’s eye instinctively focuses on some type of movement or other event. This can distort the test results significantly.
Without assessing the amount of alcohol in one’s blood or breath, obtaining an accurate measure of intoxication can be difficult. A few systems involve fitting aftermarket hardware to the phone to construct a makeshift breathalyzer. The application would consist of an apparatus for an individual to blow into. The app would then calculate the blood alcohol content level and present a reading of the results.
Responsible driving includes staying off the roads while under the influence of alcohol, regardless of whether the subject’s intoxication level is slightly under the legal limit. Despite the nature of the application, mobile phone apps that assess a subject’s intoxication level should be considered guidelines and users should provide for a reasonable margin of error before trusting the results.
about the author: Ieda Vincent is always researching the latest technology, especially cutting edge smartphone applications. The firm of Katz & Phillips P.A., which consists of skilled and dependable attorneys who will strategize for you, can provide a DUI attorney in Orlando. They are trained and experienced with the actual breathalyzer used in Florida for alcohol testing and will use this knowledge to reduce the negative effects a DUI may create for you.