A Personal Breathalyzer Lets You Check Your Ability to Drive


The Colorado Department of Transportation joined with BACtrack, a company that produces personal breathalyzers, to provide breathalyzers to DUI offenders. The goal of the experiment is to gauge how effective personal breathalyzers are in stopping people who have been drinking alcohol from getting behind the wheel.

A few Colorado statistics

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, almost a third of the fatal vehicle crashes in our state involve alcohol-impaired drivers. In 2016, 21,000 motorists were cited on suspicion of driving under the influence. Of those, nearly 40 percent already had at least one DUI conviction on their records.

The partnership approach

In teaming with BACtrack, CDOT looks to reduce the number of drunk drivers on Colorado roads. During the 2017 initiative, first offenders received pocket-sized breathalyzers in the hope that they would monitor themselves. About 475 first offenders participated, people who no longer had suspended licenses and had graduated from an ignition interlock program. Of these, almost 85 percent said that the cell phone-sized device had kept them from driving after they had been drinking alcohol. Interestingly, prior to participating in the program, people who felt they could drive after having had a few drinks changed their minds once they began using the personal breathalyzer.

Becoming educated

The personal breathalyzer is just as accurate as the instrument used by Colorado law enforcement, except that it is smaller. Whereas an ignition interlock device connects to the wiring in a car, the personal device uses Bluetooth to connect to a smartphone. It displays the blood alcohol content level and the time it will take for the BAC reading to return to zero. In so doing, it helps the user to understand more about how his or her body absorbs alcohol.

Avoiding penalties

In addition to the potential IID requirement, a driver convicted of DUI in Colorado faces penalties that include heavy fines, driver’s license suspension or revocation, and possible jail time. The personal breathalyzer performs a valuable service not only in keeping drinkers from endangering other drivers but also in keeping users out of trouble with the law.