How A 13-Year-Old Wants To Stop People From Driving Drunk Or High

Have you ever thought about how breathalyzers aren’t enough to capture drunk drivers? With over 10,000 deaths and nearly 300,000 injuries in 2013 alone caused by drunk drivers—not to mention all the people affected—something else must be done, right?

13-year-old Krishna Reddy, from Wichita Falls, Texas aims to do just that. Reddy invented a device that can determine if someone has used drugs (marijuana and select sleep aids, painkillers, or amphetamines) or had alcohol.

It’s based on how dilated the person’s pupils are, and Reddy made the instrument with three everyday objects: a digital camera, a snakehead flashlight, and a toilet-paper roll. This is such a genius idea, I still cannot believe Reddy is just 13.

Certain substances—drugs like opioids and alcohol—make our pupils get smaller while others—like cocaine and LSD—make them dilate.

How It Works

Reddy wrote a software program where the device measures how much one’s pupils constrict when light is shone on them for one second. The toilet roll causes the light to hit the pupil and the camera video captures the pupil (how it dilates or does not). Then, it is recorded into an Excel computer file.

Regular breathalyzers measure the amount of alcohol in someone’s breath, but are limited to alcohol; they do not measure drugs.

Reddy’s invention can help detect any drug (or alcohol) wherein the pupils are affected, he says.

In his video about the project (which you can see below), Reddy said that his device is better at determining if someone is drunk or impaired—more so than someone just looking at them straight on.

This is due to the fact that the pupillary light reflex occurs in millimeters and milliseconds, Reddy said. Hence, the number of drunk—and drug-impaired—drivers will decrease, lessening the number of deaths and injuries from alcohol- and drug-related accidents.

Getting National Attention

And Reddy’s ideas has gotten noticed. He’s been announced as one of the finalists in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. To be selected, the budding scientists had to submit a short video “communicating the science behind a possible solution to an everyday problem.”

Then, they were judged on the following: their science acumen, innovative thinking, and exceptional communication skills. Over the summer, the finalists worked with 3M scientists as their mentors and had to “develop an innovation that positively impacts them, their family, their community or the global population.”

There are 10 finalists in this year’s challenge. The annual competition will award one person as American’s Top Young Scientist, along with $25,000. Finalists will compete at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn. on October 12th and 13th.