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State Breathalyzer Program Highlights Personal Use Devices

 

 

STATEWIDE — In the six weeks prior to receiving their smartphone breathalyzers, 28 percent of the first-time DUI offenders in the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) 2017 Breathalyzer Program indicated they may have driven a vehicle impaired. Since receiving the breathalyzers, only 9 percent think they drove impaired. This is just one of several insights gleaned from the CDOT campaign.

The program results emphasize the value of having accurate information about impairment levels heading into CDOT’s next DUI enforcement period. To coincide with holiday parties and related celebrations marked by increased alcohol consumption, The Heat Is On Holiday Parties DUI enforcement period begins Friday, Dec. 1, and will run through Dec. 11. Colorado State Patrol and statewide law enforcement will deploy increased and saturation patrols during the crackdown on impaired drivers. Last year, 102 agencies arrested 568 impaired drivers during the 10-day enforcement period, an average of 57 per day.

Other 2017 Breathalyzer Program results include:

  • Prior to the program 42 percent of participants were confident in their ability to drive after a few drinks. Since owning a breathalyzer, 30 percent felt the same way.
  • 94 percent of participants agreed that everyone who regularly drinks should own a personal breathalyzer.
  • One individual reported a DUI conviction since receiving their smartphone breathalyzer.
  • When asked if owning a smartphone breathalyzer has helped participants avoid impaired driving, 91 percent “agreed” or “strongly agreed.”

In the program, CDOT partnered with BACtrack, a leading breathalyzer company, to determine if smartphone breathalyzers help those with a previous DUI conviction avoid a second offense. Approximately one-third of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) convictions nationwide involve someone with a prior DUI arrest, and the rate of DUI recidivism is higher in Colorado. In 2016, of the more than 21,000 DUI filings made in Colorado, 40 percent involved individuals with a prior DUI offense.

“For two years, we’ve sought to learn more about breathalyzers and their potential to reduce impaired driving. This year, we wanted to learn if breathalyzers could help an at-risk group, those who have been convicted for impaired driving once before,” said Sam Cole, CDOT Communications Manager. “The program surveys indicate having a tool on hand that provides information about intoxication levels helped participants from getting behind the wheel impaired.”

There were 475 participants in the program and 75 percent reported using their breathalyzers to determine if they were safe to drive after consuming alcohol.

“The breathalyzer is a great resource,” said Mike Hoffman, a program participant in Colorado Springs. “I knew the general rule for drinking and impairment, but there is a big difference between how you feel and how impaired you actually are.”

While the surveys indicate breathalyzers can help individuals make responsible decisions when drinking, they also reveal some concerning realities. For example, prior to the program, only 85 percent of participants knew the .08 BAC limit for a DUI conviction, and even less, 59 percent, knew the .05 BAC limit in Colorado for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI).

“We’re encouraged program participants used their breathalyzers to make better decisions when drinking, but the results show we have more work to do in preventing impaired driving,” added Cole. “Many don’t realize that you can be arrested for DUI even below the legal limit if you’re ability to drive is impaired to the slightest degree. Sober with a BAC of 0.00 is the only acceptable time to drive.”

Participants shared the following testimonials about their experience in the program:

  • “Having the breathalyzer has given me a better understanding of how different levels of intoxication actually feel and has better prepared me to make a smart decision if I’ve been drinking.”
  • “Great tool! Gives me a sense of security knowing where my blood alcohol level is, and if I’m impaired. Otherwise, I’m just making an educated guess, which is dumb when you drink!”

 

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