Can a Smart Phone App Prevent DUI Accidents, Injuries?

Posted by Richard P. Hastings | Jan 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

If you drink alcohol and then drive your motor vehicle in CT you run the very real risk of causing a drunk driving accident, wherein you could seriously injure or kill someone, or could get yourself arrested for a DUI. The consequences of your actions and this decision can have devastating consequences. The drunk driving laws of the State of Connecticut and the case law determined by the U.S. Supreme Court make it easy for a police officer to pull you over based upon a "reasonable articulable suspicion" that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Once you are pulled over by a police officer you will be asked a number of questions without first having been appraised of your constitutional rights, including your right to remain silent. This is referred to as an investigative stop where you can refuse to answer any questions and advise the officer to either arrest you or let you go. During this investigative stop the officer is monitoring your behavior, listening to your speech pattern, observing your appearance and using his/her sense of smell to detect an odor of alcohol. If the officer asks you if you have been drinking and you say yes, or if the officer detects an odor of alcohol coming from your vehicle, then you will most likely be asked to exit your vehicle to perform some field sobriety or California tests.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has developed guidelines make these tests more accurate. They are now referred to as the standardized field sobriety tests. These tests could include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, (HGN), test, the walk and turn test and the one leg stand test. If the officer feels that you have failed any of these tests then you will be arrested for DUI. Several questions that might come to mind are; what is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, how do you take the test and how are you determined to have failed the test?

Nystagmus is a term that refers to involuntary bouncing or jerking of the eyeball that occurs when there is a disturbance of the vestibular system or the oculomotor control of the eye. HGN refers to that condition that exists when there is a lateral or horizontal jerking as the eye gazes from side to side. In the drunk driving driving context, alcohol consumption or consumption of certain other drugs, impairs the ability of the brain to correctly control eye muscles, therefore causing the jerk or bounce associated with HGN. The greater the degree of intoxication, the more jerking or bouncing will occur. This eye movement is assessed by the police officer during the following of an object, usually a pen, by your eyes in the administration of horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The procedure that is to be used by police officers is detailed in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Manual.

So how can a person get a sense as to whether or not they might fail a HGN test? A Tennessee entrepreneur came up with an idea to create a smart phone application that could be used to measure the involuntary eye movements that occur during the field sobriety test utilizing the HGN test. The app, known as BreathalEyes, which costs 99 cents, was developed to help people determine whether they have had too much to drink and might not pass the HGN test.

The inventor Clay Bradley, states the app uses the iPhone's camera and scans a person's eyes to find the horizontal gaze nystagmus, which is the involuntary eye jerking that occurs when a person is intoxicated. The camera then takes a series of photographs to detect and analyze HGN, then estimates the user's blood alcohol content. One of the reasons the app was developed was to give a person a bit more information to hopefully dissuade them from driving a motor vehicle after drinking. Mr. Bradley claims the app is backed by science and when downloaded can detect a user's blood-alcohol content with an effective range of between .02-.17 percent.

It is important to note that at no point will the app say, yes you can drive or no you should not drive. This decision rests with the individual but the hope is that this app will be able to prevent at least some drunk driving accidents and the senseless injuries and loss of life that sometimes happen. In a perfect world, this app would not have been developed!

About the Author

Richard P. Hastings

Attorney Hastings concentrates his practice on personal injury and litigation. Devoted to helping those who have suffered some type of wrong, Richard P. Hastings concentrates his law practice on personal injury law.


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