A teen scientist from Wichita Falls is one of 10 finalists in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for his drunk-driving prevention invention. According to the Business Insider, 13-year-old Krishna Reddy of Wichita Falls has invented a device that can tell when a driver has consumed alcohol or used other drugs based on how dilated his or her pupils are. If Reddy wins the challenge, he’ll be named America’s Top Young Scientist and win a $25,000 prize.
The Dangers and Costs of Drunk Driving
In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 30 people in the U.S. die in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver every day. In addition to the very painful and personal human toll on American families, the cost of alcohol-related crashes is more than $59 billion annually. Although injury causing and fatal drunk driving crashes are 100 percent preventable, lives are still being lost every day.
Where The Breath Test Falls Short
The old standby for detecting whether or not somebody is impaired is the breath test or the Breathalyzer. Unfortunately, this test can’t tell if somebody is on illegal drugs, prescription medications or over-the-counter substances. It’s important to understand that impaired driving can happen on a variety of different substances, including legal prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Also, officers in the field are trained in detecting alcohol and drug impairment in drivers, but pupillary reflexes can occur on a scale of millimeters and milliseconds, so any new detection technology would be welcomed.
Reddy’s Pupil-Measuring Device
Since alcohol, opioids, LSD, cocaine and other drugs can cause our pupils to constrict, Reddy’s device measures papillary reflex to determine if drivers are alcohol or drug impaired. His invention has three components. First, there is a digital camera. Second, there is a snakehead flashlight, and lastly, there is a toilet-paper roll. When the flashlight is held up to the eye, and the toilet paper roll directs light into the pupil, the camera takes a video of the eye. Using a software program that he wrote, Reddy can measure the constriction of the pupil when the light hits it.
At this time, Reddy can tell if somebody has been drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana or using certain painkillers, sleep aids or amphetamines. The team at the Altman Legal Group applauds Krishna Reddy and his potentially life-saving invention.