The Phone That Knows If You've Been Drinking
By: Gerri Elder
People who know you well enough could probably tell if you've been drinking alcohol just by looking at you, or possibly even over the phone even if you played it really straight. However, in even in the absence of slurred speech or other indicators of intoxication in a person's voice, new technology has made it possible now for even a complete stranger to make a determination over the phone as to whether alcohol has been consumed by the person on the other end of the line.
This new technology is marketed under the name Sobrieter and is said to be a nearly foolproof way for courts to monitor a person's alcohol consumption in a way similar to random drug testing. The Sobrieter is connected to the phone line of the person that the court needs to monitor for alcohol use. A simple phone call to that person can let the court officials know that they are in fact talking to the correct person and whether or not that person has consumed alcohol.
A family court judge in Massachusetts has decided to use the technology in order to monitor child visitation in custody cases in which a parent has a history of alcohol abuse. The Sobrieter can be used at any time of day without any direct supervision. The device itself conducts the testing just by the person answering the phone. The Sobrieter has built-in voice recognition so that the person who is supposed to be monitored for alcohol consumption cannot have a sober friend answer the phone and complete the test instead.
The judge says that not every parent who is accused of alcohol abuse will be subjected to the random testing. However, if a parent with child visitation privileges has a history of DUI arrests, the Sobrieter could be a valuable tool in ensuring the safety of the children while they are with that parent.
The Sobrieter is about the size of a football. After it is connected to a phone line it gives a loud ring before conducting each test. During installation, a technician calibrates the device to recognize the voice of the person to be tested. After the Sobrieter determines that the correct person is on the phone, the person is instructed to blow into the device in a similar manner as a traditional breath test.
The Sobrieter has been used by criminal courts in conjunction with electronic monitoring devices. For repeat DUI offenders or felony DUI suspects, the Sobrieter is one of the only reasons they are released from jail. If they fail a Sobrieter test, bail can be revoked and the freedom provided by the device is gone.
The use of the Sobrieter is relatively new in family courts, but judges have had success in ordering the installation of the $1,500 device in criminal cases. This new technology seems promising, as for the first time ever, DUI can possibly be prevented by a phone call. If used correctly, the Sobrieter could possibly reduce the number of drunk drivers, alcohol related accidents and DUI arrests. It could also allow parents who might not have been allowed visitation in the past to spend time with their children, as long as they can prove that they are sober.