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Are "BAC Apps" Reliable?

Posted by Terry A. Wapner | Feb 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

All the young kids are doing it! Well, maybe not all of them. But the popularity of apps for smart phones is definitely increasing. It seems that there is an app for anything these days: games, news, sports, and the list goes on. In my line of work, I have seen and heard about one type of app in particular. The app that tells you if are “too drunk to drive” or “what your BAC is.”

Here's the thing. It's never a bad idea to use a resource to your advantage, especially if it's for informational purposes only. However, I don't recommend using these apps as the determining factor as to whether you should get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. And, I'm not alone. Law enforcement and other officials agree that these types of apps should not be trusted to accurately evaluate a person's BAC.

Apparently, there is no real proof that any of these apps actually work. Therefore, these apps are really providing nothing more than a false sense of security. “[T]hey are putting a sense of false security in a lot of young people's minds that they can go out and drink. Then, once they have a few drinks, they will measure their blood alcohol with a small phone app, and basically get a false result,” said Major Randy Robertson of Muscogee County Sheriff's Office in Georgia.

So, how do these things even work? According to one device's website, Breathometer, it's fairly straightforward. The website states that once you have ordered the attachment ($49) that plugs into your phone, you just open the app on your phone and “whistle blow for 5 seconds about an inch away from the illuminated hole."

The FAQ section of the website goes on to talk about replacing batteries and sharing the device with friends, but it never really gets into the science behind the device. It just states that it has been FDA approved.

Major Robertson states that is just one reason why those kinds of apps should be approached with caution. He stated that these apps usually just test the raw alcohol inside of the person's mouth - often leading to inaccurate results.

Further, these apps do not detect drug intoxication. “Phone applications cannot even bring accurate results for the users when they test for alcohol, so how do you expect the device to bring detail information on possible drug consumption? Instead of drinking when driving after depending on false results produced by these phone apps, it's important that people only drive when they are sober.“

In addition, it's important to remember that law enforcement rely on more than just breath tests to evaluate intoxication. Officers use field sobriety tests along with breath, blood, or urine testing to determine whether a driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The moral of this story is not to depend on an app to tell you whether it's ok to get behind the wheel. You are responsible for your actions, and I can guarantee that no judge will let a driver get away with the defense of “ . . . but the app said I was fine!”

About the Author

Terry A. Wapner

Terry A. Wapner confines his practice to the defense of persons accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and related crimes.


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