DUI offenders being recruited to use smartphone breathalyzers

According to research, drunk drivers face steep numbers when it comes to the likelihood they will become repeat offenders.

Of the 21,000 impaired drivers arrested in 2016, 40 percent of those had been caught for the same offense at some point in the past.

With that in mind, the Colorado Department of Transportation is launching a program to determine if smartphone breathalyzers can help repeat drunk drivers break the cycle.

CDOT will team up with BACtrack, a professional breathalyzer company to conduct the experiment that may make Colorado roads a safer place.

“Impaired driving is a major traffic safety issue in Colorado and a number of those charged with DUIs are repeat offenders,” said Sam Cole, CDOT Communications Manager. “We want to know if having a tool on hand that provides information about your level of  impairment prevents you from getting behind the wheel.”

CDOT is reaching out in Adams, Jefferson and Weld counties to connect with first-time DUI offenders to participate in the breathalyzer program.

In 2016, Adams, Jefferson and Weld counties had a combined 55 fatalities involving impaired drivers, representing over 33 percent of all traffic fatalities in those counties.

The breathalyzer outreach program was introduced in 2015 and has continued to grow.

In summer 2016, CDOT recruited 225 participants to see how owning a smartphone breathalyzer might change behavior.

After a summer of use, 84 percent of program participants agreed that owning a smartphone breathalyzer reduced their risk of getting a DUI.

This summer, CDOT has adapted the program to focus on a group that is at a high risk for driving impaired – those who have already received a DUI.

Information gauging the effectiveness of breathalyzers will be gathered in two ways. First, surveys will evaluate how participants feel smartphone breathalyzers influence their behavior.

Second, data from the smartphone breathalyzer itself is logged every time a participant uses their smartphone breathalyzer, tracking Blood Alcohol Concentration, time and location.

Recruitment for participants is underway, and those who have been convicted of a DUI can apply at HeatIsOnColorado.com.

CDOT plans to provide smartphone breathalyzers to at least 200 participants for their use during the summer.

Participants will complete surveys about drinking habits, driving and their breathalyzer usage. In September, CDOT will compile information gathered from participants and share it with the public.

CDOT is accepting online submissions for the program through the end of July. To learn more about the program and to apply, visit HeatIsOnColorado.com.