New Breathalyzer Kiosks at Bars Could Prevent Drunk Driving

By Mike

When people drive home after a night of drinking at a bar, they usually gauge their level of drunkenness with a quick glance at the mirror or a simple balancing test. Getting arrested for a DUI is rarely on their minds.

Some enterprising souls carry portable breathalyzer tests, but these are expensive, and sometimes difficult to use. Most drivers, however, simply guess whether they are sober enough to drive home.

In response to this information gap, a company in Buffalo, New York has designed a breathalyzer kiosk that could offer quick blood alcohol readings for bar patrons, allowing them to drive home with the knowledge that they and their passengers are safe.

According to the University of Buffalo Reporter, Ladybug Technologies recently announced the release of their new machine, the SipSmart Network, which allows bar customers to check their blood alcohol levels before they get into their cars.

In addition to the new kiosks, the company also sells a portable breathalyzer test, as well as a smart phone application that helps drinkers keep track of their BAC by entering each drink they consume and their body weight.

The kiosk, however, is the jewel of the company’s DUI-preventing fleet of machines. Sources indicate that the SipSmart Network machines contain a police-grade breathalyzer unit, which is covered by a “thin, sleek” kiosk.

The machines also use platinum fuel-cell technology, which allegedly helps the devise obtain accurate data about a user’s blood alcohol levels.

A pilot program aimed at studying the usefulness of the machines has started in a bar in New York, as well as a bar in Ontario. These pilot machines require a $5 payment from each customer for a reading.

Each $5 payment entitles a user to three different breath readings throughout the night. Before using the machine, though, customers must also purchase a 50-cent disposable mouthpiece from a nearby dispenser.

While the machine may offer a helpful resource for some potential drunk drivers, it still has its critics. First, some people note that the machine often takes up to 15 minutes to provide an accurate reading, which could dissuade some customers who are leaving a bar in a hurry.

In addition, critics are concerned that people will use the machine to drink until they are right at the legal limit, then immediately get into their cars.

Even though customers may technically be under the legal limit, they may still have reduced reaction times or poorer vision due to their drinking. In other words, just because a person passes a kiosk test, they aren’t necessarily in the best shape for driving.

Finally, customers that rely on the kiosk should also be warned that police won’t let them go simply because they passed a test a few minutes ago. If a police officer’s breathalyzer reaches a different measurement than the kiosk’s, the police will always rely on their own reading.

So, much like alcohol, the kiosk might be a fun tool, but it should be used wisely.



New DUI Technology Measures Blood Alcohol Levels Through Skin

By Mike

Police have long loathed traditional breathalyzer tests for the same reason that doctors tired of oral thermometers—sticking objects into the human mouth requires worrying about sanitation and discarding used devices.

Of course, the alternative to a roadside breath test, which requires using a needle to extract blood from a DUI suspect, is even more invasive and raises more serious health concerns.

In response to the disadvantages posed by these methods, two companies are developing a device that check drivers’ blood alcohol levels by simply touching their skin.

According to an article in USA Today, Takata, a Japanese company with a U.S. office in Michigan, and TruTouch a New Mexico-based corporation, are trying to make touch devices commercially viable using a $2 million grant from the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.

In its current stage of development, the device, which is roughly the size of a breadbox, uses an infrared sensor to determine whether a driver is intoxicated.

Eventually, the company plans to scale the device down so it becomes small enough to place on a car’s start button, preventing would-be drunk drivers from ever firing up the engine.

The companies plan to sell the device for roughly $200, and with the goal of having the touch button replace the cumbersome ignition interlock device that DUI offenders sometimes have to use before starting their cars.

The companies say the device may even be hidden, or unknown to drivers, which will likely raise concerns from advocates worried about preserving personal liberties.

Despite the potential for such disputes, experts say most drivers will have to voluntarily agree to the installation of the device, and it will certainly be easier than having to repeatedly blow into a tube, provided that the technology actually works.

While the two companies are optimistic about the device’s commercial readiness, there remain a few hurdles to make the tool more sturdy and reliable.

With the grant money, the companies are looking to reduce the tool’s processing time from several seconds to just a few hundred milliseconds. In addition, the tool only works at room temperature in its current condition, so scientists are working to modify it for operation in more extreme temperatures.

There is increasing demand for better-designed blood alcohol tests in the United States, which saw almost 11,000 people die in drunk driving accidents in 2009 alone.

According to sources, deaths caused by drunk driving account for almost a third of all driving fatalities each year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has praised the work of Takata and TruTouch, claiming in a statement that the new technology signals a “new frontier in in the fight against drunk driving.”

A program director for the Driver Alcohol Detention System for Safety, Susan Ferguson, believes that this frontier will soon be breached.

By her estimation, the touch-activated device will be on the market within the next 10 years.