Uncontrolled alcohol sale, drunk driving, and especially underage driving along with underage alcohol abuse make our roads less safe. Many measures have been taken to keep a check on DUI such as random police patrols and license checks, a compulsion on clubs, bars, and other places where alcoholic beverages are served to forbid consumers from buying more drinks when they appear drunk, discouraging drunk driving, and whatnot.
An alcohol breathalyzer, however, is the most powerful tool law enforcement agencies have to keep an eye on the drivers who are under the influence. On top of that, a personal breathalyzer can be very handy to keep an eye on your blood alcohol level (BAC) and how much influence alcohol has over your body.
What is a breathalyzer?
A breathalyzer is a tool used to effectively gauge a user’s blood alcohol level (BAC) by breathing into it. Breathalyzers are often used in law enforcement agencies by policemen, especially for suspected drunk driving sobriety tests.
What are the most relaible alcohol breathalyzer brands?
Reliable alcohol breathalyzer brands include:
- AlcoHAWKPrecision Digital Alcohol Detector
- ALERT J4XII Portable Breath Alcohol Tester
- BACTrack Select S35 Digital Alcohol Detector
- BACTrack Mobile Digital Alcohol Detector
- ALERT J5 II Professional Breath Alcohol Tester
Best Personal Breathalyzer Reviews
AlcoHAWKPrecision Digital Alcohol Detector
One of the popular brands of personal breathalyzers. It uses a PT core sensor technology which is an improvement in the old semiconductor sensors. It is more accurate, and it has a useful feature of setting alarms when personal alcohol consumption limit is reached. However, it has the disadvantage of being expensive and needs recalibration after 200 uses.
ALERT J4XII Portable Breath Alcohol Tester (DOT approved)
This electrochemical breathalyzer is the best choice for police use. Due to its latest technology, portability, and high sensitivity, it is used by the police department for screening drivers.
It provides options for memory, real time clock and detects BAC from 0-.50%.
BACTrack Select S35 Digital Alcohol Detector
A great product for personal alcohol testing, its MicroCheck technology has advanced sensors of semiconductor type. It can detect BAC levels in wide range.
BACTrack Mobile Digital Alcohol Detector – iOS/Android Compatible
It is undoubtedly one of the best products in the market, you can connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth. It is also compatible with iOS on apple devices, It gives the result within seconds and measures BAC accurately. It has 10-pack mouthpieces. It has the disadvantage that it requires a smartphone to function.
ALERT J5 II Professional Breath Alcohol Tester – Includes Bluetooth Printer
This product is popular for official use among organizations which are involved in alcohol control. Using platinum electrochemical sensors, this breathalyzer can carry out almost 1000 tests, it has a recall speed of past 10 tests in a few seconds. Its accuracy makes it a good screening tool for law enforcement agencies.
What is an Alcohol Breathalyzer?
A breathalyzer is a generic name for a gadget which measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath. This gives an estimate of the level of drunkenness of a person. The instrument has 3 parts, a machine which you breathe into, a chamber in which the chemical reaction takes place and a microprocessor which measures the electrical current produced by the chemical reaction and displays approximate value of blood alcohol content (BAC) on the tiny screen of a breathalyzer.
The chemical reaction which takes place within the breathalyzer is the conversion of ethanol into acetic acid and water which produces electric currents which regulate the whole process of analysis.
Symptoms of Alcohol Overdose: When to Use breathalyzer
Alcohol tolerance varies from person to person as some people who drink frequently develop a higher tolerance for alcohol than a person who drinks occasionally. The overdose occurs in 3 stages.
Stage of excitement:
It is the stage when the BAC level is from 0.02-0.07, in this stage, a person becomes over confident, over emotional and euphoric.
Stage of Incoordination:
0.08-0.19 BAC level is when the person has blurred vision, uncoordinated movements and is unfit to drive.
Stage of Narcosis:
From 0.19 BAC onwards the person is severely agitated and anxious. He loses balance and control of his body then after a while loses consciousness and after some time goes into shock if the dose is increased still. After the shock comes the stage of coma
A breathalyzer can detect the presence of alcohol in all of these stages.
Accuracy and Use of a Breathalyzer
The ratio between the alcohol present in the lowest portion of the lung after the absorption and exchange of alcohol in the lung and the blood is 2100:1 and breathalyzers are designed to calculate values Blood Alcohol Content according to this ratio. To calculate this value, breathalyzers are calibrated in terms of BACs. Their accuracy depends on many factors, some pertaining to the instruments are; the type of material used in their sensor system, the battery life of the electronic component and the number of times it needs recalibration and replacement. While some problems that might affect the result on the consumer’s side are improper cleaning of the mouthpiece, no consideration of expiry or recalibration time, etc.
From the above description, we can easily conclude that drunk person is unfit to perform any normal activity especially driving. Due to increased number of accidents which happened due to drunk driving, use of breathalyzer has become familiar. It is most commonly used by law enforcement agencies to check BAC of a suspect. A police officer has a legal right to pull over anyone who is not driving safely, ask them to take part in a field sobriety test or blow into a breathalyzer to prove that they are not DUI.
Are breathalyzers accurate?
The accuracy of a breathalyzer depends on many factors like the materials used on its sensor system, its battery life, and the number of times it needs recalibration and replacement. Breathalyzers are calibrated in terms of BACs to calculate its value.
Other than its use on the road It is now also used by general public to check their own blood alcohol level and plan the day accordingly.
Positive Aspects of Using a Breathalyzer
- It is a non-invasive method of checking BAC, and other invasive methods include taking a blood sample.
- The results are obtained immediately without going through any trouble.
- The process is very simple and moderately effective.
- It helps law enforcement officials in controlling the rate of traffic accidents by testing drunk drivers and forbidding them from driving.
Negative Aspects of Using a Breathalyzer
- It is not as accurate as blood or urine tests for alcohol as the alcohol present in breath can also come from the residues of alcohol present in mouth or esophagus or trachea which can affect the result
- Its accuracy is also affected by the sensors such as silicon oxide which are prone to contamination, and those require recalibration and replacement frequently.
- The air blown into the mouthpiece of breathalyzer should be adequate in amount as the air is blown too late or too early cannot be analyzed properly.
- The breathalyzer cannot differentiate between ethanol and other compounds similar to it which affect the accuracy of the instrument.
- Some health conditions can produce compounds which can be confused as alcohol for example acetone breath in diabetic patients can give a false positive on breathalyzers.
Myths and Misconceptions About Breathalyzers
Truth: To some extent, this might be true as acetaldehyde is present more in the lungs of smokers than non-smokers, but it can only fool silicon oxide sensor breath analyzers, while in police stations they use highly accurate instruments and smoke doesn’t change the result much.
Truth: This concept arises from the observation that the breath fresheners cover up the smell of alcohol from the breath, but in reality, that’s the extent of their effect. They cannot lower the concentration of the alcohol in the body in any way.
Truth: Hyperventilation can reduce the BAC but only slightly, holding your breath will actually increase the level of alcohol in the breath, however in front of a law enforcement agent you will look suspicious doing anything to alter your normal breathing rate.
Truth: Many things can muffle the effect of alcohol or mimic the effect of alcohol and can be picked up by the sensors easily, making breathalyzers untrustworthy to be used in court as evidence.
Truth: This was proved by the experts to be an entirely wrong assumption.
And as the bottom line — check out this old episode of Mythbusters on the ways and myths of a quick sobering up.