Stop drunk driving by giving everyone a smartphone

So you want to eradicate drunk driving completely? Here’s a radical theory. Give everyone a smartphone.

The idea is, at its heart, simple. Hand over a smartphone to everyone in North America – subsidized if necessary – and tie everything they do to that smartphone.

First off, the technology already exists to allow you to use a smartphone as your car key. This isn’t a stretch, I know, and certainly not worth fronting the cost of the 200 million smartphones needed to make this work but what if we also finally enabled mobile payments on those smartphones. Having people pay electronically through their phones – with NFC or similar technology – would build an inventory of the driver’s purchases and could show how many drinks they’ve had. Add some smarts to the phone that knew what the driver’s threshold was for drinks before they would be classified as over the limit and, once they are at that point, the key on the phone would be disabled – the car stays put.

Funding this would obviously be preventative but certainly could pay for itself inside of one year: A study done a while ago shows that the economic impact of drunk driving is, at minimum, $114 billion per year with just 40% of this number being paid out by the actual drunk drivers. A huge cost, a huge problem and one that is waiting for the right fix as it seems humans aren’t really able to do this based on their judgement alone.

We may not be ready for this as people and it may seem invasive in nature (who really wants their alcohol consumption tracked!) but this is a societal problem that needs a preventative solution. Mobile may just be that.

Ideas, that’s all.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

  • Chris

    considering that smartphone use while driving is almost worse than drinking, equipping everyone with a smartphone would be replacing one problem with another… 

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