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Target 3 Special Report: Designated App

David Gonzalez tests out an app that claims to read blood alcohol levels on individuals who have been drinking using a smartphone's camera.

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 10,000 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in the United States in 2011.

Over 1,200 of those in the state of Texas.

A deadly accident on Kell Boulevard on Valentine's Day is a tragic reminder of how far too common in Texoma and across the U.S.

In this case, toxicology reports show the driver, 56- year-old Robert Kelley's blood alcohol level was more than .29, more than three and a half times over the legal limit of .08.

The crash killed Kelley, the driver of the other vehicle and seriously injured a 12 year old girl.

Clay County Sheriff Kenny Lemons says the consequences of drinking and driving affects everyone.

"Recently in Wichita Falls, some people lost their lives because of it and that's the ultimate price and no one wants that on their conscious nor do they want their kin, folks or family members to suffer that consequence," Sheriff Lemons exclaims.

However, can a cell phone help lower those killed every year by alerting people if they've gone over the limit.

Smartphones can do it all nowadays whether it's taking pictures or video, getting directions or playing games but how about letting you know when you've gone over the limit after drinking alcohol.

We've all heard the term, "There's an app for that", and now there are smartphone applications out there that claim to do so using your phone's camera.

Sheriff Lemons is not too sure.

"It possibly could be within some sort of acceptable range but the only true machines are the ones here at the sheriff's office and all over this country," Sheriff Lemons says.

So we put one of these smartphone apps to the test.

It's called Breathaleyes.

Breathaleyes creators claim the app captures up to 100 frames of video of the eye over five seconds.

The resulting images are sorted through and compared against the Breathaleyes algorithm measuring the subjects Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus or HGN.

HGN is a condition of the eye indicated by the involuntary rhythmic oscillating motion of the pupil across the horizontal field of view.

Sheriff Lemons says, "I think they are putting their trust in something that's not very trustworthy."

With the help of the Clay County Sheriff's Office and three sober volunteers over the age of 21, we conducted an experiment to see if this app could really work.

Each subject was allowed to consume a controlled amount of alcohol: beer, a mixed vodka drink or wine in 30 minutes.

"The app itself, on the phone, I don't know what's it going to register but whether it's even close or whether it's on the money. It's not acceptable. We're not going to accept that. It's worthless," Sheriff Lemons says.

After 30 minutes, we tested each subject's left and right eye using Breathaleyes.

Subject 1's results were inconsistent coming in at .10 and .03.

Then using a Portable Breath Tester or PBT, Clay County Constable Ronnie Pullin conducted his own test to check the accuracy of the app.

"This gentleman will continue to blow in this machine until I tell him to stop. Once he stops, I'll push the read button and approximately 20 seconds later, it will get a result of what his breath test is," Constable Pullin says.

Subject 1's BAC came in at .05.

The same series of tests was conducted on Subject Number 2.

Constable Pullin tells Subject 2 to take a deep breath and blow into the PBT.

Her results were more consistent coming in at .06 and .04 while the PBT registered at .04.    

The app claimed Subject 3's BAC was .12 and .10, over the legal limit of .08.

The breathalyzer had her a little higher at .14 but the results were still fairly close.

Sheriff Lemons says people are taking a big gamble when they use any kind of tool that is coming off a cell phone. 

"We're not going to recognize your cell phone," Sheriff Lemons. "We really don't care what it says. We know what our machines say. We know how your driving is."

After another 30 minutes and a few more drinks, all three subjects were tested once more.

Breathaleyes registered Subject 1's BAC at about .14 while the breathalyzer read .12.

For subject 2, the phone app said she was at the legal limit of .08 and the PBT registered at .05.

The Portable Breath Tester had Subject 3's BAC at .14 the first time around and when we retested the phone app, it also registered a .14 BAC.

However, when the sheriff's office used the PBT one last time, Subject 3's blood alcohol level had climbed to .16.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office and the volunteers agree while the results of the experiment show the app was close at times at determining a person's BAC, it was still inconsistent and should not be used by anyone who is considering getting behind the wheel after they've been drinking.

Carolyn Bobo, Subject 2, says not to use.

"When you get pulled over and you get a DWI and you go and you take your case to court and you say, 'But i used an app,' that judge will laugh at you," Bobo says.

Constable Pullin agrees.

"I would not use that app at all," he says. "If they are in any doubt thinking that they are intoxicated to drive, call someone, get a designated driver and drive them home."

While this app and many others like it are meant for entertainment purposes only, Sheriff Lemons says some may still ensure their safety and the safety of others on them so he urges people to think twice before drinking and driving.

"Use it as a party favor while you're at the party drinking and having a good time," Sheriff Lemons says. "Play with it, do whatever you want to do but then when you get ready to leave, have someone else drive you that hasn't been drinking. That app is not going to save you and it's certainly putting people in danger outside on the highways."

All three volunteers in this experiment were guaranteed a safe ride home.

Some of these BAC apps like Breathaleyes cost money to download so Sheriff Lemons says instead of spending money on them, to put the money towards a safe cab ride home.
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