Unlike actual tattoos, the new biosensor ‘tattoo’ can measure alcohol levels and let drinkers know when they should call it quits.

A new biosensor “tattoo” could help to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads. The wearable sensor, which detects alcohol in perspiration and sends the data to the wearer’s smartphone, was created by engineers at the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla engineers, helped by funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), Brian Mastroianni wrote for CBS News.

Seila Selimovic, Ph.D., director of the NIBIB Program in Tissue Chips, said the biosensor patch looks like a temporary tattoo, but is embedded with flexible wireless components. One component releases a chemical that stimulates sweat on the underlying skin, and another senses when the electrical current flowing through the perspiration changes, measuring the alcohol level and sending that information to the wearer’s phone. The phone can alert the tattoo wearer when he or she is too impaired to drive.

Dangers of Drunk Driving

Being impaired by alcohol reduces a person’s distance vision and peripheral vision, and reduces reaction time, all of which make it very dangerous to drive under the influence, Duncan Geere wrote for Tech Radar.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 88,000 people in the U.S. die of alcohol-related causes annually, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 9,900 are killed in drunk driving auto accidents.

In Colorado, more than 26,000 people are arrested each year for DUI, and more than 150 people are killed in drunk driving crashes, more than a third of all traffic deaths in the state, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).

It has been a challenge for law enforcement to educate certain segments of the driving public, because many of them — particularly men ages 21-35 — do not believe that a few drinks will impair driving. CDOT has been tackling this misperception with a campaign called “A Few Can Still Be Dangerous.”

The tattoo-like biopatch, which is small and non-invasive, makes it easy for drinkers to discreetly keep track of how much alcohol is in their system. Patrick Mercier, a co-senior author of the paper describing this invention, said this patch is an improvement over other similar technologies:

Measuring alcohol in sweat has been attempted before, but those technologies took 2-3 hours to measure alcohol levels. Our patch sends alcohol levels to your smartphone in just 8 minutes, making real-time alcohol monitoring possible, practical, and personal.

Other Ways to Keep Track

If you are out and about and want to keep track of you blood alcohol concentration (BAC), you can go to the No DUI Colorado website, where there is an online calculator that estimates your BAC by asking a few questions including your weight and how many drinks you have had. The website also shows a map of DUI statistics in Colorado by county.

No DUI Colorado provides a page showing alternative transportation you can use when you have had too much to drink. There is even a $20 discount off your first Uber ride. Another option, Tipsy Taxi, will provide a free ride home to anyone in the Aspen area who is intoxicated and has no other way to get home without driving.

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