The breathalyzer is a fairly new invention that has gained many critics on one side, many supporters on the other side and has created a lot of controversy throughout its lifetime of use. While this is a relatively new technology, we’re already seeing a massive reduction in drunk driving thanks to the widespread use of breathalyzers.
Essentially, the term breathalyzer is a brand name for certain models of the device but has become the de facto term to designate any group of devices that estimate blood alcohol volume via breath analysis.
The breathalyzer has its origins in experiments conducted by Emil Bogen, who measured alcohol content excreted through breath and urine in the late 1920s. The first and most primitive iteration of the device to be adopted on a large scale for use by law enforcement was the drunkometer, which used a balloon to collect breath samples, which were then brought into contact with a solution of potassium permanganate. In the case that alcohol was present, the solution underwent a color change, the degree of which correlated with blood alcohol content.
It wasn’t until 1954, when Dr. Robert Borkenstein invented the first modern breathalyzer, which used photometry and oxidation reactions to gauge BAC.
Contrary to popular conception, these devices cannot and do not provide a direct measurement of BAC, as this requires a blood test. Rather, they provide an estimate based on the breath alcohol content. Law enforcement-grade models vary and the more accurate models are mounted in the officer’s vehicle and utilize fuel cell and spectrophotometry technologies to arrive at an estimate. Portable breathalyzer units, on the other hand, are typically limited to fuel cell technology.
Depending upon the country, state, city and local jurisdiction, these devices can serve different law enforcement functions. Primarily, they’re used to establish probable cause for arrest, which is then followed by a blood test as soon as possible. In some areas, however, the breathalyzer reading can be entered into evidence in a subsequent court appearance, to “prove” the driver’s guilt. This practice is questionable at best, considering the well-understood inaccuracies associated with breathalyzing individuals as anything but a preliminary screening tool.
Civilians also use these alcohol breath tests for various purposes. Arguably, the average casual alcohol drinker is less interested in assessing their true state of intoxication than they are in becoming the center of attention with this obviously very cool apparatus. Even though the accuracy of these devices vary, they are still going to be relatively accurate, assuming that they don’t lose calibration after several goes. Thus, it can be a fun and interesting social experiment to pit everybody’s BAC against one another, to presumably determine who is the least affected by alcohol and thus, the toughest. Interestingly, one would think that this would incentivize competitive drinking and indeed it may.
More responsible individuals who are less interested in boasting of their drinking prowess are more inclined to use the device in a preventive manner, in order to make sure that they are above the legal limit when they get inside their vehicle or that their friends are OK to drive themselves home or whether they need a taxi or a ride.
The breathalyzers sold to consumers are typically less expensive than those used in law enforcement and make use of a different type of technology: semiconductor sensors. These are less accurate than the professional models. However, professional models ARE available to the average consumer if they are willing to pay the extra cash to get the extra accuracy. Unless one buys a breath tester purely for the social/party favor element, then absolute accuracy isn’t of paramount importance. If, however, one is using the device to accurately assess how fit they are to operate a vehicle, then accuracy should be the only concern simply because a small difference on your device may be a bit larger on a professional grade device, resulting in an unexpected DUI.
When it comes to using breathalyzer results in legal proceedings, there are two basic ways that they can be used. First, anytime that somebody is breathalyzed in the United States and reads a BrAC of .08 or greater, they are automatically charged with a per se offense. Per se offenses are those that automatically incriminate the violator of a given set of rules; in this case – being over .08.
The other way in which the readings can be used are as probable cause for arrest, followed by an alcohol blood test to confirm that, in fact, the individual was above the legal limit. There are many confounding factors that make breathalyzing problematic. First and foremost, is the inherent inaccuracy of the instrument, which can produce different readings based on many different factors. If, for instance, the individual in question had been hyperventilating (either on purpose or inadvertently), or if they were exercising prior to the test, the readings may be quite substantially inaccurate.
What are the sources that can contribute to an error in readings?
Temperature variations in both the atmosphere and the party being tested
Breathing patterns influence these results by up to 30%!
Technical assumption of certain subject parameters such as blood himatocrit
Miscalibration via contamination of the sensors in the breath tester
Molecules that are similar in structure to ethyl alcohol can be mistakenly counted as part of the BAC
Various chemicals in the immediate environment can taint the readings
Individual biological differences can confound the test results
Alcohol in the mouth (such as that from rinsing with mouth wash) throw off the readings because the device assumes the subject’s alcohol is all originating from the lungs.
Eating before a test can tweak the results.
Extrapolating the supposed level of intoxication of a subject at the time of apprehension based on current readings or based on how many drinks the subject supposedly had in a given span of time is a practice fraught with inaccuracy.
The breathalyzer is just one of many tools that law enforcement can use to help curb drunk driving and that individuals can use for fun and as a party favor and it is an apparatus that’s continually evolving in accuracy, affordability and ubiquity.
Every year thousands of individuals and families are devastated by auto accidents. In many cases these tragedies are caused by drivers who didn’t realize they had too much to drink. This is avoidable and the following breathalyzer reviews could help you avoid getting into this unfortunate situation. There are many excellent models to buy, often for sale, and often quite cheap. We’ve reviewed some of the best models on the market like the bactrac BAC calculator and the alcomate and these models of alcohol detector outperform test strips unequivocally.
BACtrack Select S80 Professional Edition
The BACtrack Select S80 is a professional breathalyzer used by a wide range of authorities including hospital employees and law enforcement personnel so it’s extremely accurate for personal use. This product is easy to use thanks to its one button operation and its clear LCD display. The S80 measures 2.3 by 4.8 by 0.8 inches and weighs 4.8 ounces.
This is another easy-to-use, single button operated breathalyzer. It has a clear display and is extremely accurate thanks to its FlowCheck feature. This breathalyzer is also used by various authorities and is FDA certified. It’s one of the larger models, weighing 7 ounces and measuring 5 by 1 by 2 inches.
The BreathKey is one of the lightest and smallest breathalyzers on the market today. This breathalyzer weighs 0.6 ounces and measures 2.4 by 1.4 by 0.6 inches. It’s extremely portable and can be attached to your key ring so you can use it anywhere. It’s FDA certified and is the only breathalyzer for personal use that includes cell sensor technology.
It’s important to find out as much as possible about these products through breathalyzer reviews. These products can help you avoid accidents but you want to be sure that the breathalyzer you’re using is as accurate as possible.
Understanding The Breathalyzer Scale
Despite all of the warnings about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, many drink related accidents and drink-driving offences still take place on our roads each year. It’s a problem that can easily be avoided by understanding the breathalyzer scale.
A persons BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) depends on a range of variables. These include your gender, the amount of drink you have consumed, your weight and other factors. The breathalyzer scale takes into account all of these variables and calculates a value that indicates whether or not a person is under the influence of alcohol and how it is viewed if you take a breathalyzer test.
The main scales of how drivers get affected by the quantity they drink include the following:
The only safe driving limit where the amount consumed is zero
Driving impairment begins
Driving skill impaired with possible criminal penalties
Criminal penalties and the possibility of death
The scale goes from a safe driving limit where no drink is consumed all the way up to the most serious situation where an individual has consumed far too much alcohol for their body weight and are in danger of getting criminal penalties as well as serious health conditions.
Lives are lost and destroyed every year because people don’t heed the warnings or follow drink-driving guidelines such as the breathalyzer scale. Drivers need to consider the implications of their actions. Even taking one more drink than you should can drastically change your life and the lives of others.
First of all, it’s recommended that you should never drink and drive. However, life’s not always straightforward and there are times when you may have had a drink and then decided to drive your car home.
When this happens you may not be certain about whether or not you’re over the limit. This simple mistake has serious consequences for hundreds of drivers every year. Despite this, there are some simple ways to avoid failing the dreaded breathalyzer test.
Buying an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) certified breathalyzer gives you an accurate BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) reading if you’ve consumed alcohol earlier and are not sure if you over the legal limit. These personal breathalyzers are portable, making it easy to get a BAC reading whenever you need it.
If you don’t have a breathalyzer, it’s not worth taking a risk of driving your car if you had a drink earlier. One bad decision like this could change your life forever. If you’re not sure about your BAC it’s wise to find an alternative way home such as getting a taxi or being driven home by a friend or family member who is not under the influence.
At the end of the day, the only certain way to pass any breathalyzer test is not to drink when you’re driving. There are times when you may have had a drink and are unsure if you are legally eligible to drive. If you’re unsure, the precautions above will help you avoid becoming another traffic accident statistic or fail a breathalyzer test because you were driving under the influence of alcohol.
A good idea when buying your next blood alcohol calculator is to read some breathalyzer reviews. You'd hate to blow into your blood alcohol content calculator, think you got an accurate reading and then drive, only to be pulled over and blow over the limit on a more accurate police model. When you buy breathalyzer models online, the best best is to go with a digital model. Sure, they're more expensive, but NOT more expensive than a DUI!