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Do Breathalyzer Apps Work? Test Done in Sioux Falls Says: No!

Drew Duncan
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan and Cole, LLP

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Smartphones can get you to the nearest bar and grill, calculate your tip, let you weigh in on Yelp and, perhaps, even help you determine if you are under the legal limit in South Dakota and if it’s safe to drive home.

Breathalyzer apps are increasingly popular, with several already on the market that are being used in South Dakota and nationwide. Recently KDLT News went to Rookies Bar & Grill in Sioux Falls to put one such app to the test: Breathometer.

According to the Breathometer website their newest product, called Breeze, can “wirelessly transform your smartphone into a breathalyzer in seconds. Beyond providing dependable blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels—the Breathometer app is designed to help you make informed, dependable decisions.”

The words “informed” and “dependable” were put to the test that night, and the results may not surprise you: the app was anything but dependable.

The Test

Test participants were asked to drink as they normally would. Every so often, KDTL would ask the drinkers to use the Breathometer. After the reading Sgt. Steve Swenson of the South Dakota Highway Patrol followed up with his police-grade breathalyzer.

After approximately 30 minutes the first participant blew into the device that comes with the app. She didn’t feel tipsy, but the test said otherwise, coming in at .05 BAC. But just moments later Sgt. Swenson tested her with his breathalyzer and got a reading of .025 BAC—half the reading from the app. This trend continued as others were tested, the results coming in much higher with the app. There were multiple times when the app didn’t give a reading. Which is not terribly helpful when trying to determine if it’s safe to drive or not.

After a few more rounds the news station broke out their app, testing everyone once again. The second test was similar to the first, readings were not accurate or there was no reading at all. For one participant, Taylor Eastman, the app’s inability to get readings were the most troubling.

“If it’s not working, how many times are you going to try it? I think after you’ve tried it four, five, six times I would just say hands up, I’m going to drive,” said Eastman.

The Takeaway

Apps like these are fun, but not terribly accurate. At the end of the informal experiment Officer Swenson said it best.

“If you blow into that thing to see if you’re okay to drive home, I think you’ve already answered your question. I wouldn’t drive,” stated Sgt. Swenson.

We couldn’t agree more! If you are considering purchasing the app, or any app like it, it’s best to save your money. Perhaps for a cab ride home.


Category: Criminal Defense


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