Despite the number of drink driving deaths falling dramatically in the UK over the last three decades, hundreds of people are still killed each year as a result of alcohol-fuelled collisions. Thousands more are seriously injured.
While government campaigns have largely discouraged people from drinking and driving on the same night, one in five drivers has taken to the wheel the next morning, even though they know they could be over the limit.
But a new virtual breathalyser, which uses a smartwatch and smartphone to monitor how people walk, could combat the problem by alerting potential drink drivers before they step into a car.
According to new trials on 30 people, the system is 93 per cent accurate. In only one case was a subject deemed sober when a breathalyser would have marked them as intoxicated.
“Alcohol distinctly affects movement, gait, and balance in ways that can be detected by the built-in motion sensors on devices people carry around with them all the time,” Ben Nassi, a graduate student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who worked on the project, told Christian Science Monitor.
At the start of the test, participants were hooked up with several smart devices to measure their movement. But the scientists soon realised that the smartphone and smartwatch could make a reading which was just as accurate.
If incorporated into a smartphone’s operating system or a third party app, the service could constantly monitor people’s sobriety, notifying them if they’ve drunk too much to drive. But such a system could prompt concerns among privacy advocates, especially given its value to insurers.