Using the Breathometer

Still shot from Breathometer’s video (which you can see below) showing how it is used.

Two new smartphone apps make it possible for drivers to test their blood alcohol level (BAC) after they have been drinking, and can also call a cab if they are too inebriated to drive safely. Natasha Baker writes for Reuters that the Breathometer, for iPhones and Androids, and BACtrack, for iPhones, display a person’s BAC in a few seconds on breathalyzers that connect to the smartphones. Both companies are based in California — Breathometer in Burlingame, and BACtrack in San Francisco.

Breathometer’s chief executive, Charles Michael Yim, told Reuters: “People think, ‘Oh, I’m driving around the corner,’ but it’s not until they get pulled over that they realize they’re over the limit.” Breathometer hopes to prevent drunk driving by helping drivers make smarter decisions, and by raising awareness of alcohol levels, Yim said. The device is the size of a car key and fits into a pocket or on a key chain. It plugs into a smartphone’s headphone jack and the user blows into it.

Baker quotes Yim:

‘Just checking blood alcohol levels can help you be more aware of your body. If you blow 0.02 percent or 0.04 percent you might think, ‘I better stop drinking,” ‘ Yim said. […]

‘It’s not about whether you’re at 0.05 or 0.08 percent. If you even have 0.01 percent you should not be driving,’ said Yim.

Using the BACtrack, image courtesy of BACtrack

Using the BACtrack, image courtesy of BACtrack.

The BACtrack connects to an iPhone via Bluetooth, and includes a mouthpiece, Reuters writes, noting that BACtrack was the first company to receive government approval to sell breathalyzers for personal use. It also tracks a user’s drinking habits in a graph, can estimate when the person’s BAC will return to zero, and makes it easy for users to share their blood alcohol levels via text message, Facebook, and Twitter. Both it and the Breathometer use sensors approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and can detect blood alcohol levels accurately within 0.01%, the companies told Reuters.

Breathalyzers have existed since the 1950s, but making them smaller and more cost-effective, and pairing them with smartphones, introduces them to a whole new group of people, Reuters writes. “We are catering to a completely different audience that wouldn’t have considered buying one before,” Breathometer’s Yim said. The Breathometer app will be released worldwide online in October, and in stores in November, and will cost $49, Reuters reports. The BACtrack costs $150.

As Matthew Mientka writes for Medical Daily, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that 1.2 million motorists were arrested in the United States in 2011 for offenses ranging from misdemeanor ‘buzzed driving’ to vehicular homicide, presenting public health officials with a seemingly intransigent problem on the nation’s roadways.”

Breathometer’s site reminds readers that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, adults drove while legally drunk about 112 million times, about 300,000 each day.

You can see a video about Breathometer here:

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