A drunken driving test may not seem the likeliest place to come up with a mobile phone app, but that’s when inspiration struck Nashville, Tennessee resident Clay Bradley.
Bradley said he was following a policeman’s pen with his eyes when it dawned on him that a smart phone could be used for the same purpose.
He mentioned his idea to some friends, and they came up with BreathalEyes. The 99-cent app, which launched in November, can be used to measure involuntary eye movements when people are intoxicated, which is one method police use in field sobriety tests.
Bradley said people can use the app to help determine whether they’ve had too much to drink to drive.
He said 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.
“It takes a series of photographs to detect and analyze HGN, then estimates the user’s blood alcohol content,” Bradley said.
He let the idea simmer for over a year before telling his friend Russell Ries.
“This was really appealing to me because I am a recovering alcoholic,” says Ries, adding he has been sober since March 26, 2008. “I know firsthand that any little bit of information you can put in front of somebody’s face to help them make smarter decisions, especially people who have a tendency to abuse alcohol, can help.”
The two men then approached friend, Robert Andrews. He, too, was intrigued by the proposal.
“It sounded like a great idea, so I invested in some research and development,” Andrews said. “Then we eventually all decided to become partners, and I invested some more money into it, and now we have all sort of coalesced into a true partnership.”
The men said that their 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.
In Tennessee, a first offense DUI can lead to the loss of a license, classes, fines and legal fees of more than $4,000 and jail time.
“At no point will the app say, `Yes you can drive, no you shouldn’t drive,”‘ Ries said. “We feel ultimately that decision falls on the person. But if we can give them something to help them make a smarter decision, that is what we want to try and do.”