A collaboration between Breathometer, Inc., a developer of breath analysis technology, and Uber, a mobile app connecting professional drivers to those who need rides, hopes to enable more informed decision making.
Impaired driving, or driving under the influence (DUI), is a significant public health issue. On average, 2 in 3 people will be in a motor vehicle accident involving an impaired driver in their lifetimes. Alcohol is a relaxant – impairing a drinker’s ability to make conscious decisions (i.e., whether it's ordering another glass of wine or getting behind the wheel).
Breathometer and Uber have designed a unique partnership to create awareness about the importance of making safe choices when it comes to drinking and driving. The offers combine discounts on the mobile Breathometer products, which help users learn more about personal alcohol consumption and alcohol levels, as well as rewards for people utilizing Uber.
To kick off the collaboration, Uber will give out free rides (up to $20) to all Breathometer users new to Uber. For current Uber customers, Breathometer will give out 100 free rides (up to $20) to the first 100 people who use Uber through the Breathometer app.
Breathometer’s latest device, Breeze, is a wireless smartphone-enabled breathalyzer. In a matter of seconds, the user receives law-enforcement grade blood alcohol level readings, which could assist casual, social drinkers to make more informed decisions regarding their alcohol consumption and ability to operate their vehicles. Breeze retails for just less than US $100, and is available in Canada and the US.
Breeze, and the accompanying Breathometer smartphone app, are registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The device uses a next-generation electrochemical fuel cell sensor to measure intoxication levels based on a standard breath alcohol to blood alcohol ratio of 2,100:1.
As with a roadside breathalyzer test administered by law enforcement, Breeze reveals the user’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If your BAC is nearing dangerous levels, the Breathometer app helps users identify around what time they should be sober (assuming no further alcohol consumption), and helps users find nearby restaurants or hotels.
According to Breathometer:
In those moments when making smarter, safer decisions are critical, Breathometer is there, and can help empower you or assist another in making the responsible choice while drinking.
How Alcohol Impairs
Alcohol impacts one’s attentiveness, impeding a driver’s ability to react quickly to changing road or traffic conditions. With BAC levels of 0.02, a person experiences some loss of judgment and relaxation that can result in a decline in visual functions. Psychomotor skills are affected when a person’s BAC level reaches 0.05, slowing eye movements and leading to steering difficulties. When BAC is 0.08, there is poor muscle coordination, loss of speed control, and reduced cognitive abilities.
Every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash, according to a report from the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis indicates that 28 people die as a result of drunk driving-related crashes every day in the United States.
The Global DUI Landscape
Drinking laws vary around the world. In some cultures, drinking is quite acceptable; in others, it is strictly prohibited. Additionally, there are inconsistencies among countries regarding the illegal BAC limit. The legal BAC level is as little as 0.00 in some Arab countries, 0.05 in many European countries, 0.08 in Canada, the UK, the US, and China, and up to 0.1 in Paraguay.
Countries also vary significantly in the rate of BAC testing at crash sites. In Austria, there is no known standardized system for testing. Other nations, such as Canada, France, and Sweden, test 80-90% of drivers at crash sites. In the US, testing varies from state to state, but the average is 63%.
The Uber Effect
Breathometer’s integration with Uber means that, if the Breeze test indicates that driving is not safe, a safe alternative is just a click away.
Approximately 7.6 people per day – or 2,750 people per year – were arrested for driving while impaired in Seattle before Uber began operating in the city in 2013, according to a study conducted by Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Uber gave imbibing adults more choices when it came to safe rides home, and a 10% decrease in DUI arrests has been noted since this time (though causation has not been established).
Across the country, though, there appears to be a relationship between Uber use and alcohol consumption. In Miami, Uber ridership peaks at the same time as historical drunk driving crashes, according to the same Uber/MADD study. In Pittsburgh, Uber requests peak around 2am, when bars close. In Chicago, three-fourths of Uber trips on New Year’s Eve were requested within one-eighth of a mile of establishments with liquor licenses.
While the digital health technology is impressive, and the ease of decision making and convenience of the Breathometer and Uber apps is appealing, Breathometer notes that:
nothing replaces common sense and you should never drink and drive.