Putting breathalyzers apps to the test

Putting breathalyzers apps to the test
Published: May. 5, 2015 at 6:48 PM EDT|Updated: May. 6, 2015 at 2:00 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FOX19 - After a night out on the town, how do you know if you're over the legal limit?

Smartphone breathalyzer apps claim to show when the legal limit has been hit.

The breathalyzers are portable and connect directly or via Bluetooth to smartphones. After exhaling into the device, the user's blood alcohol level will appear on the smartphone screen.

We put three leading brands - Breathometer, Alcohoot and BacTrack - to the test. Like the cocktails our test subjects were drinking, the results were mixed.

The $40 Breathometer only registered at .02 after Shay Dobozi consumed some drinks.

"No, over that," Dobozi admitted. "Over that for sure." She was right.

Off-duty police officer Tony Lehman gave Dobozi the same portable breathalyzer test many police use and she blew a .175 - more than twice the legal limit.

The Breathometer read closer with the rest of our group, but not much. Each subject blew a .20 on the Breathometer. Their police readings: .119, .134 and .144.

The $100 Alcohoot read Tracy Sunley at .284, which is more than three times the legal limit and nowhere close to accurate, according to the police breathalyzer. It showed Sunley at .144 – about half the level Alcohoot read her at.

The Alcohoot results were slightly more accurate for everyone else, but not much.

Dobozi blew a .23 on the Alcohoot and a .175 on the police breathalyzer. Jimmie Welch blew a .154 on the Alcohoot and a .119 on the police breathalyzer. And fourth test group member Greg Pippen blew a .164 on the Alcohoot and .134 on the police breathalyzer.

The final breathalyzer was the $105 BacTrack Mobile Plus.

Welch's BacTrack reading was identical to the police reading. Sunley's was only one tenth of a point off. BackTrack's reading for the two other test subjects wasn't quite as accurate.

Officer Lehman said field breathalyzers are only part of the assessment if you get pulled over. Drivers are subject to balance and coordination tests as well.

"Some people can test well below .08 and be impaired driving," he said.

Most police say that no matter how accurate you consider the smartphone breathalyzers, the safest thing to do is simply not drive when you've been drinking.

Here's what the app makers had to say in response to our sister station WAVE's test:

"Breathometer said their devices are geared towards giving consumers a good baseline of whether alcohol affects them, not if they should get behind the wheel of a car. Breathometer also said it believes in the accuracy of their product and offered to exchange the unit we tested believing our results were not accurate. Here's the complete statement:

Thanks for taking the time to test our breathalyzer for your piece. Breathometer believes that our personal devices for testing BAC levels are geared towards giving consumers a good baseline of how the consumption of alcohol affects them – not if they should get behind the wheel of a car as alcohol effects everyone differently. At no time should anyone that has consumed alcohol consider operating a motor vehicle. Don't drink and drive.

Breathometer focuses on providing our customers with more than an estimated BAC level, starting with the Back to Zero information provided whenever alcohol is detected. This helps educate the user about the length of time it takes for alcohol to actually metabolize, or to return to being sober. We also feature Get Home Safe options, and Stay Nearby options, which provide local options to make better decisions.

Breathometer believes in the accuracy of our product with proper use and do not believe the results you had are reflective of the products. We would like to exchange the unit you utilized so we can confirm the settings and your findings."

"It is great to see WAVE 3 News highlight the topic of alcohol consumption and breathalyzers. BACtrack is dedicated to providing the most accurate, reliable and affordable breathalyzers, and we're pleased to see BACtrack Mobile Pro delivered results consistent with the police breathalyzer. BACtrack is proud to offer an affordable way for consumers to estimate their alcohol level."

Copyright 2015 WXIX. All rights reserved.