FOX6 News puts DOT's "Drive Sober" app to the test

BROWN DEER (WITI) -- The "Drive Sober" app, released by the Wisconsin DOT has over 25,000 downloads since it was launched in March of 2013. Now, the app is getting a second look from officials across the country.

The "Drive Sober" app is the first of its kind, and is an effort to tackle the age-old drunk driving problem in a new way: getting people to think about what they're drinking, and how drunk they may be before they get behind the wheel.

The Wisconsin DOT budgeted $50,000 for an agency to develop the app -- and FOX6
News recently put it to the test.

The bartender, in the name of drunk driving awareness was Kenosha County Sheriff Bill Beth.

Volunteer drinkers were 25-year-old FOX6 Producer Jeff, 22-year-old FOX6 Assignment Editor Sarah and Kenosha County Sheriff's Department intern, 22-year-old Colin.

The app allows folks to choose their weight, gender and number of drinks consumed in an hour.

The volunteers in this test had two drinks in the first hour of testing.

When tested, the app said none would be legally drunk at .08. However, the app warned them they could still be arrested for buzzed driving. The app also provided a reminder that this is simply an estimate of their blood-alcohol levels.

The app also provides a link, allowing folks to choose a designated driver, shows them how impaired things would look and provides a link for calling a cab based on their GPS location.

After three more drinks in the next hour -- bringing the total to five drinks, all three of the volunteers said they wouldn't choose to drive home.

"I think it's more that you think you can have three drinks and you think that you're fine, but really you're not. If I'm drinking and I know I'm drinking, I'm not going to drive. That's not going to happen. I'm going to call someone or I call a taxi," Colin said.

"I know I can't drive. There's no way I would drive home," FOX6 Producer Jeff said.

Jeff did not perform well on a field sobriety test. When Sgt. Beth asked him how far he got in school, Jeff said he passed high school.

Jeff actually graduated college.

At this point, after five drinks in two hours, the "Drive Sober" app says Jeff would likely have a BAC near .12. A breathalyzer showed .13.

FOX6 Assignment editor Sarah failed her field sobriety test and was asked to take a breathalyzer test. A breathalyzer said .16, while the "Drive Sober" app said .15 -- still over the legal limit.

As for Colin, who weighs a bit more, five drinks in two hours meant a .12 on the "Drive Sober" app, while a breathalyzer said .07.

Those who work in law enforcement say the disclaimers on the app warn people there are many factors taken into consideration when the app makes the measurement, and alcohol affects people differently.

"The app doesn't account for what you are drinking. It just says three drinks, four drinks, this many drinks in an hour. Are you really keeping track? Do you know how
many drinks you've had?" Sgt. Beth said.

"We want them to have as many tools on them as they can to give them as much information on hand so they don't make the error of drinking and driving," Sandra Huxtable with the DOT said.

The DOT says the app has disclaimers, so it cannot be used in court. The DOT also stresses you can be arrested even if you're less than .08.

The bottom line with 30,000 to 40,000 drunk driving convictions in Wisconsin each year is, state officials say they are trying one more technique to see if this app will get people talking more and drinking less.