DENVER -- Heather Poli wasn't quite sure how to react when her friend's cellphone informed her she was drunk.
The 27-year-old ad-agency worker had been at a bar here with her buddies. It was late; she was about to catch a ride home. Then a friend pulled out an iPhone, and the gang took turns entering their weights and what they had imbibed into an app called R-U-Buzzed?
Bing! Up popped estimates of their blood-alcohol content. Ms. Poli's designated driver turned out to be hammered. Ms. Poli wanted to take the wheel herself, but to her indignation, the phone told her no: "I got the big red 'Don't even think about driving' result." Her hangover the next day confirmed the phone's assessment, she says ruefully. "But at the time, it was very surprising." Still, she obeyed the phone and called a cab.
Of course, a cell phone-based BAC calculator isn't 100% accurate. Then again, neither are most hand-held breathalysers. The WSJ article mentions a small, portable chemical breathalyser which one can attach to a keychain. Last year, these things were given out by the thousands by the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, and we soon found out just how inaccurate they were--Soldiers were arrested for DUI even after the keychain breathalysers mistakenly indicated they were sober. Their best use was--and I know this through personal experience--in drinking games, a la the Tucker Max Sushi Pants Story. Don't believe me? Quoth the Journal:
Pocket breath-analysis devices, some so small they fit on keychains, have been sold for some time, for as little as $15, though experts warn that they aren't always accurate. There are also several online blood-alcohol calculators. Colorado officials hope that bringing the issue to the iPhone will make it even easier -- and more socially acceptable -- for young adults to keep tabs on their intoxication.
But some have found another use: "It could definitely become a drinking game," says Brad Brown, a 23-year-old bank teller.
Mr. Brown pulled out the app at a recent party and started punching in each drink as he downed it: One shot of vodka. Two. Three. A mixed drink. A beer. It became a challenge, he says, to watch the blood-alcohol content climb and see when he could tip the color bar from gray to yellow to red. He didn't drive home that night, but he credits his common sense, not the app. "It's just a cool thing to mess around with," he says. "It gives you another excuse to drink."
So drink responsibly this New Year's Eve. For those so inclined, you can follow my Blood Alcohol Content and Twitpics on Twitter. God help us all...