Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer Rand Spear Says An App May Stop Drunk Drivers

Smartphone apps may warn us that we're too drunk to drive.
January 6, 2017
Legally Reviewed By Attorney Rand Spear, Esq.

Smartphone apps may warn drivers they’re too drunk to drive and keep them off the roads says Philadelphia car accident injury attorney Rand Spear.

Smart phones have become part of our everyday lives. When we go out with friends and family our smart phones come with us. We take pictures, videos and post on social media. If someone had a smart phone app that showed they had too many drinks to safely drive, could social pressure be brought to bear to keep that person, and others, safe? Any technology that can keep an impaired driver, one who’s an accident waiting to happen, from driving is worth a look says Philadelphia car accident lawyer Rand Spear.

Kit Delgado sees firsthand the death and injuries caused by drunk drivers on Philadelphia’s streets. He’s an emergency room physician at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and a professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer1 Delgado says he’s involved in research to help prevent the injuries that bring people to trauma centers. His focus is on cellphone use while driving and drinking and driving.

A technology he’s studying is personal breathalyzers, which, in one shape or form or another, have been on the market for more than twenty years. These newer, smaller versions of the technology used by police officers are linked to smartphones via apps. They can be purchased online from $35 to $140, says auto accident attorney Spear.

The user connects the device to the phone which accesses the app. You turn the app on, blow into the device, it measures your breath alcohol concentration (BAC) and the estimated level appears on the screen (the BAC amount that can result in an arrest for driving under the influence is 0.08, while your driving could be impaired at lower levels). Users can get an idea of their BAC levels over time and share them if they want.

To test their effectiveness the Colorado Department of Transportation provided smartphone breathalyzers to 225 randomly chosen bar patrons, Delgado says. The average BAC reading from 4,823 measurements was 0.087, above the legal limit. Nearly all of the participants, 84%, stated owning a smartphone Breathalyzer lowered their risk of a DUI adds Philadelphia accident lawyer Spear.

Many of the devices on sale are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have not submitted or published data on accuracy, according to Delgado, which is motivating him to do his own testing. If a device’s test result is inaccurate and too low an impaired driver may feel he or she is safe to drive it may result in an accident. A device that reports readings that are inaccurate and too high will be ignored and unused.

Delgado says his study will be the first objective, rigorous test of the accuracy of smartphone breathalyzers. He advises the public not to buy one unless it’s approved by the FDA.

Delgado compares these devices to exercise trackers and other connected devices tracking behavior. It puts people on notice of their behavior and measures it which can result in a positive change, but without a long term strategy to stick with it and change behavior permanently the devices will only do so much good.

In 2017 Delgado will be involved in a study to test behavior strategies that use smartphone breathalyzers, text message reminders, rideshare app credits and behavior incentives to try to reduce alcohol-impaired driving and excessive drinking. Bar patrons in the Philadelphia suburbs who admit to past drinking and driving will be recruited for the study.

The truly smart way to approach drinking and driving is not to drink when you plan on driving. Since that’s not always how the situation is handled a technology that could keep impaired drivers off the roads, reducing the number of people injured and killed, should be developed and hopefully one day perfected.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of an intoxicated or impaired driver, contact an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer right away. Your lawyer can answer your questions and help you determine the next steps in your case.

Call Philadelphia vehicle accident lawyer Rand Spear today at 888-373-4LAW today to discuss your case with a knowledgeable vehicle accident attorney.


1 Philadelphia Enquirer