About 40 percent of the more than 21,000 DUI citations in Colorado in 2016 went to repeat offenders. The Colorado Department of Transportation hopes personal breathalyzers will help drinkers avoid driving while under the influence of alcohol, thereby preventing deadly auto accidents.

CDOT Study Shows Devices Change Users’ Views

If only there were an app or digital device to help you make every decision in your life. Simple picks, important choices and life-or-death decisions might have better outcomes.

There’s one such gizmo that might keep you out of jail, the hospital, or the morgue: a portable alcohol breathalyzer. The Colorado Department of Transportation recently confirmed its hopes that the pocket-size device can and is helping one-time drunk drivers avoid repeating that potentially deadly mistake.

CDOT started a study program, “Know Before You Go,” in August with BACtrack, a maker of affordable, extremely compact breathalyzers for consumers. The partners set out to determine how effective the devices could be in preventing DUI incidents. They gave the breathalyzers, which attach to smartphones, to 475 first-time DUI offenders and recently reported on their effectiveness in discouraging repeated DUIs. The results are impressive.

Objective Results Breeding Better Habits

About 28 percent of the participants indicated they may have driven while impaired by alcohol in the six weeks before receiving the breathalyzers. Since receiving them, only 9 percent think they drove while drunk.

About 75 percent of the participants used the devices to determine whether they were sober enough to drive after drinking alcohol.

The participants’ assessments of their abilities changed, too. Before receiving the devices, 42 percent felt confident about driving after a few drinks. After using the devices for a while, that proportion dropped to 30 percent.

About 94 percent of the testers agreed that everyone who drinks on a regular basis should own a breathalyzer. About 91 percent agreed or strongly agreed that having a breathalyzer helped them avoid driving while impaired.

Only one of the test subjects reported having a new DUI conviction after receiving a device.

Participant: Devices a ‘Great Resource’

Colorado Springs resident Mike Hoffman, a program participant, said “The breathalyzer is a “great resource,” The Denver Post’s Holly Graham reported. He knew, generally speaking, that alcohol affects one’s ability to drive “but there’s a big difference between how you feel and how impaired you actually are.”

Repeat Offenses More Prevalent in Colorado

Nationally, about one-third of convictions for driving under the influence is for people with prior DUI arrests, CDOT said. The rate is higher in Colorado, where 40 percent of the more than 21,000 DUI citations in 2016 involved people with a prior DUI.

Of the 37,461 lives lost in 2016 in auto accidents across the United States, 10,497 deaths, or about 28 percent, were linked to drunken driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Gizmos a Cause for Hope to Reduce DUIs and Alcohol-Related Car Accidents

Sam Cole, CDOT’s communications manager, said the program was a success and is giving the agency “quite a bit of hope” for reducing impaired driving, The Post reported. Cole said CDOT wants to conduct more research and public awareness campaigns and to promote the breathalyzers to alcohol addiction treatment providers and their patients. The agency is even looking for a research team so it can conduct a comprehensive study of the devices’ effectiveness.

Cole said:

“We’re encouraged (that) program participants used their breathalyzers to make better decisions when drinking, but the results show we have more work to do in preventing impaired driving. … The program surveys indicate having a tool on hand that provides information about intoxication levels helped (keep) participants from getting behind the wheel impaired.”

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