3OYS tests alcohol detection gadgets

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- There are numerous electronic gadgets and smart phone apps that claim to be able to detect a person's level of alcohol intoxication.

Some of the apps are free, but many sell for as much as $150 or more.

However, do these apps and devices actually work? 

3 On Your Side wanted to find out.

So, we headed to what's called an "alcohol workshop" located at the Arizona Department of Public Safety where officers had brought in about a dozen volunteers. 

The workshop is sponsored by the Arizona's Governor's Office on Highway Safety and in this controlled environment the volunteers are encouraged to consume alcohol. 

The goal is to conduct tests on the volunteers and to assist law enforcement officers to become certified in Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus or HGM. HGM is a form of field sobriety test.

However, it was also the perfect place to test the alcohol apps and gadgets.

The BACtrack Keychain Alcohol Detector is a small device that connects to a key chain. The package said it estimates a person's blood alcohol level with a breath test.

So, after a few drinks, a volunteer named Darla agreed to test the device.

According to the official certified police equipment, Darla's blood alcohol level was a .06. That's just shy of .08 which is legally drunk.

Darla told 3 On Your Side at the time that she felt inebriated. 

"I feel like I would not drive," she said. 

Darla then blew into the $22.00 BACtrack device. It indicated she was a .11, a much higher reading. That meant the device failed.

3 On Your Side also wanted to try a free smart phone app that scans a person's eyes and claims to calculate that person's level of intoxication.

A volunteer at the workshop named Christian, decided to put this one to the test.

After scanning his eyes, the free app indicated his blood alcohol level was .02. However, Christian was skeptical. 

"I'm 100% sure that it was not accurate. In fact, I feel that it was much higher," said Christian.

He's was correct. Police determined his true level wasn't .02. It was actually .06. It's another do-it-yourself intoxication tool that did not work.

And finally, it was time to try out an app that was basically a blood alcohol calculator. 

Users plug in their weight, how many drinks they had and whether they're a man or a woman. 

With this information, the app claims to calculate your blood alcohol level.

A volunteer named Sarah tested this one. The app said she was a .27, three times the legal limit.

However, the official test put her blood alcohol level at .16, nowhere near accurate.

Again, another app failed. 

The volunteers said they're really not surprised and warn that people should not depend on any kind of do-it-yourself electronic device or app to tell them if they're drunk. 

"Whether you decide to drive or not by that meter, then you are making a bad purchase for yourself," Christian said.

It should be mentioned that most electronic gadgets available to consumers, including apps, state that their results are strictly for entertainment purposes.