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The Oklahoma Legal Group Blog

Report Shows Oklahomans Have the Nation's Highest BAC

Adam Banner - Wednesday, July 02, 2014

A recent report by a BACtrack, a breathalyzer company, shows that Oklahomans have the third highest average blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the nation.

BACtrack products include portable roadside breathalyzers and personal breathalyzers, including keychain and smartphone breathalyzers. Recently, the company aggregated data from 100,000 BACtrack Mobile smartphone breath tests and compiled the information into an "Alcohol Consumption Report."

The data is far from comprehensive--it is not a true random sampling, as the collected information only came from specific BACtrack users: those with data storage activated and location services enabled. Still, it provides some interesting insights about the days, times, and places people are most likely to be "over the limit" for DUI.

Of particular note to Oklahomans is the reports finding that the state ranks third in the Alcohol Consumption Report's analysis of the highest BACs in the nation. In Oklahoma, the legal limit for intoxication in DUI is a BAC of 0.08 percent. According to the BACtrack report, the smartphone breathalyzer users in the state have an average BAC of 0.096 percent--above the legal limit. The state comes behind only Montana and South Dakota, which tied with an average BAC of 0.101 percent. The national average was 0.069--lower than the BAC required for DUI in Oklahoma, but high enough for the lesser offense of DWI, or driving while impaired. The state with the lowest average BAC, New Hampshire, registered an average of only 0.012 percent.

The report also compared the number of DUI arrests per capita in each state to the average BAC determined by the mobile smartphone breathalyzer. In general, the higher the average BAC, the more DUI arrests per capita. However, that was not always the case--particularly in the case of the states with the highest average BAC:

  1. Montana: BAC - 0.101; per capita DUI arrests - 0.004
  2. South Dakota: BAC - 0.101; per capita DUI arrests - 0.008
  3. Oklahoma: BAC - 0.096; per capita DUI arrests - 0.005

Despite having a lower average BAC than Montana, Oklahoma had more DUI arrests. And while Montana and South Dakota had an equal BAC, South Dakota had significantly more DUI arrests per capita than Montana.

Obviously, a number of factors can influence the findings of the report--the number of people using the device, the number of people relying on it to test BAC before driving, the number of people blowing out of curiosity when not impaired, and so forth. A more accurate assessment of average BAC could be the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) roadside survey, in which drivers are flagged down at random and asked to participate; however, this program has its own difficulties. First, it made headlines when drivers said they felt forced or pressured to participate when uniformed officers stopped them at roadblocks. Second, it seems unlikely that anyone who had been drinking prior to driving would feel willing to participate in a "voluntary" breath or blood test conducted on the side of the road with law officers standing by.

Mobile smartphone breathalyzers could be a significant tool in reducing drunk driving, but they would have to be used correctly to do so. Simply having the app or the tool will not reduce DUI unless a person actually uses the findings in deciding to call a sober ride. Often, however, a person may see the results that put him or her over the limit but still feel "okay to drive." In other cases, a person may put too much faith in the reliability of such an instrument. An inaccurate reading could encourage a person to go ahead and drive, not realizing that he or she is actually intoxicated enough to get a DUI or DWI in Oklahoma.

The best advice for avoiding a DUI is to make the choice never to drink and drive. If you plan on drinking, find a designated driver or call a taxi to get  you home safely.






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