After their DUI arrests, they were given personal breathalyzers – and it worked, surveys say

An officer holds a device people accused or convicted of an alcohol-related crimes blow into to test their sobriety in Sioux Falls, S.D.
An officer holds a device people accused or convicted of an alcohol-related crimes blow into to test their sobriety in Sioux Falls, S.D. AP

If you drive drunk once, there’s a high chance you’ll do it again.

Around the country, one-third of all offenders arrested for driving under the influence have been arrested for the same crime before — and a one-time DUI offender is 615 percent more likely to get another DUI than someone who hasn’t ever gotten a DUI, according to a 2010 study.

With such a high risk of repeat offending, state and local law enforcement have tried to figure out what they can do to make sure DUI offenders don’t get behind the wheel drunk again.

In Colorado, where a full 40 percent of DUIs are repeat offenders, the state has come up with a creative approach to try to tackle that.

Over the summer, the Colorado Department of Transportation handed out personal breathalyzers (which can be hooked up to smartphones) to 475 state residents who had been convicted of driving under the influence.

The department says it’s been a success: In a survey after the summer-long test, 75 percent of participants said they used their breathalyzers to figure out whether or not they were safe to drive after drinking.

“The program surveys indicate having a tool on hand that provides information about intoxication levels helped participants from getting behind the wheel impaired,” Sam Cole, the department’s communications manager, said in a statement.

After the program, 94 percent of participants also said that everyone who routinely drinks should have their own personal breathalyzer, according to the transportation department.

“The breathalyzer is a great resource,” Mike Hoffman, a program participant from Colorado Springs, said in a statement. “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.”

Only one study participant said that he or she was convicted of drunk driving during the program, the department said.

After the program had ended, only 9 percent of the participants said they thought they had driven under the influence during the previous months, compared to 28 percent of participants who thought they had driven drunk before getting the personal breathalyzers.

Personal breathalyzers have grown in popularity in recent years, hand in hand with the rise of smartphones.

If you’re in the market for a breathalyzer of your own, Wirecutter — a website that reviews gadgets and gear — has completed an exhaustive review of the personal breathalyzers on the market.

How exhaustive? Wirecutter writes that the recommendations took years and required “65 hours of research—which included getting intoxicated at a police station to test personal breathalyzers alongside law enforcement equipment.”

But some anti-drunk driving organizations, like MADD — Mothers Against Drunk Driving — oppose the use of personal breathalyzers.

“MADD’s national standpoint on personal breathalyzers is that we are not in favor of them,” Malcolm Friend, program manager for MADD Pennsylvania, told the New Castle News. “They are not necessarily accurate; they are not as accurate as a breath analyzer that local police and state police departments use.”

For its Alcohol Awareness Day, State College of Florida held activities to show students what it's like to drive drunk.