Drunk driving is a big problem in many parts of the world. In France, for example, it's the leading cause of traffic fatalities, accounting for about one-third of all roadway deaths.
Accordingly, last year France passed a law requiring motorists to carry breathalyzers in their cars. That law went into effect on July 1, although fines for violating it have been indefinitely postponed.
Things aren't so different here in the U.S.: alcohol was a factor in 9,878 of the 32,367 traffic fatalities recorded in 2011 (the latest year for which data is available). That's 30.5% of the total.
Could Americans soon be required to carry breathalyzers themselves? If so, there's a device on the way that might come in handy.
Over the past few years, we've seen a number of smartphone apps that claim to determine whether a user is drunk. Most are fairly clunky, like BreathalEyes, which requires two people to operate it -- one of whom has to be sober.
Breathometer is different. According to a press release, Breathometer not only analyzes a user's breath to determine her blood-alcohol level, it also address the broad culture of boozing:
Breathometer is both a device and mobile app that will transform iPhone and Android smartphones into a breathalyzer. Breathometer provides options beyond informing users of their impaired state and plans to connect to local transportation services to quickly connect with a cab or taxi.... Breathometer will be FDA approved and is patent pending.
As you can see from the video clip embedded above, Breathometer is a device that plugs into the headphone jack of your iPhone or Android handset. Crack open the Breathometer app, blow into the device, and get an instant reading of your blood-alcohol level.
In the press release, the folks at Breathometer claim that the gadgets will be ready to ship this summer. On the Breathometer Indiegogo page, however -- which has exceeded its $25,000 goal a month ahead of schedule -- it appears that timeline may be just for project backers. The general public can likely expect them a bit later, around January 2014.
Based on the campaign, the price could be as low as $20.
Breathometer's founders don't offer a lot of detail about the device or guarantees about its accuracy. While it certainly looks promising, we'll withhold judgement until we get our hands on it.
But back to the question of whether breathalyzers for drivers could be required by law. Given the contentious climate in D.C., we'd be surprised if Congress handed down a federal law mandating breathalyzers in cars -- and even if that were to happen, we're not so sure that the Breathometer would pass muster.
On the other hand, it's entirely possible that insurance companies could offer discounts to customers who use breathalyzers in their vehicles. And judging from a report posted yesterday, a majority of you might be inclined to jump on that wagon.