New anti-DWI smartphone app hits market, with kinks

ENDWI aims to educate New Mexicans about responsible drinking and keeping the roadways safe

By Brian Fraga
Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A drink in one hand, a smartphone in the other. State officials hope that can be a life-saving combination.

"More and more people are utilizing smartphones, more than anything else, in their day to day lives. We see (smartphones) as another tool in our toolbox to help fight DWI's," said Alvin C. Dominguez, the cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Dominguez took out his smartphone Friday to show how a new application, called ENDWI, could help educate New Mexicans about responsible drinking and keeping the roadways safe.

"It's extremely easy to navigate and get through," Dominguez said during an interview at the Department of Transportation's offices in Las Cruces.

As of Friday, 1,009 people had downloaded the ENDWI app since state officials unveiled it at a Sept. 5 press conference in Santa Fe.

The app is so far available only on Android phones. By next week, Dominguez said iPhone users should be able to download the app, which is designed to compile a list of designated drivers that people can call when they've had one too many.

There are also two games intended to test your reaction time and memory, though they probably require a few failed attempts before figuring out what the games are asking you to do.

The app is also designed to call the nearest cab company, enable someone to report a drunken driver by calling #DWI, and even help you figure out what your blood alcohol content is.

The BAC test requires users to honestly enter their weight, the drinks they've consumed (beer? shots? cocktails?) and how much they drank in the prior 15 minutes or hour.

A disclaimer flashes on the screen when someone accesses the BAC test, to warn that the blood-alcohol level provided is an imprecise estimate that does not take into account factors like food consumption and "total body water content."

"It's a guide more than anything else," Dominguez said.

However, ENDWI has so far seen a less-than-enthusiastic reception, judging by the early reviews on Google's "Play store," where Android users download apps.

Users gave the app an average rating of 2.7 stars (out of 5) for various reasons. One person, who only provided his first name, Ryan, didn't appreciate that the app didn't warn him where police had stationed anti-DWI checkpoints.

"Then it would really end DWI," Ryan said.

Another user named Luke said he tried using the call-a-cab feature, and kept getting referred to a car rental company.

Someone named "Matt" found the BAC test a bit inaccurate when he entered that he had just drank nine double shots of whiskey.

"The app said I was at .04, which is just not right," Matt said.

Dominguez reiterated that ENDWI does not claim to be a precise scientific tool, but rather a guide and reminder that drunken driving has dangerous consequences.

"This is more of a technological tool than anything else," Dominguez said.

While claiming no direct knowledge of the ENDWI app, Las Cruces Police Department spokesman Dan Trujillo said he welcomed anything to curb drunken driving.

"We encourage any and all measures that keep intoxicated people from driving," Trujillo said.

The app's unveiling coincided with preliminary statistics from the New Mexico State Police's "100 Days and Nights of Summer" campaign, a summertime anti-DWI blitz that includes stepped-up patrols and checkpoints.

Dominguez said the statistics show that since June 21, there have been 17 DWI-related fatalities in New Mexico, compared to 38 DWI-related deaths over the same period last year.

"Our goal is zero deaths," Dominguez said.

Copyright 2012 Las Cruces Sun-News, a MediaNews Group Newspaper

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