Accuracy of Consumer-Marketed Smartphone-Paired Alcohol Breath Testing Devices

Smartphone-paired alcohol breath testing devices have been promoted to prevent impaired driving. A recent study led by PISC Senior Scholar Mucio Kit Delgado, MD, MS, featuring External Advisory Board Member Charles Branas, PhD, and Executive Committee Member Douglas Wiebe, PhD, evaluated the accuracy of these devices. Weight-based doses of ethanol were administered to twenty healthy adults. Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) was measured by police-grade devices and consumer smartphone-paired devices comparatively. Data indicated that all smartphone-pared devices underestimated BrAC by at least 0.01%. Accuracy varied significantly among each smartphone device, as some devices failed to detect BrAC thresholds more than 50% of the time. The study concludes that, “Although some devices are suitable for clinical and research purposes, others underestimated BrAC, creating the potential to mislead intoxicated users into thinking they are fit to drive.”

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