If you are caught driving with a 0.08% blood alcohol content or higher, you will be charged with a DUI, and you will be fined, your license will be suspended, and you might even get a jail sentence. This has been the blood alcohol content limit for a couple of decades now, but recently, the National Transportation Safety Board suggested that it should be set at 0.05%, which should help raise people’s awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and deter them from driving under the influence of alcohol. Considering that punishments for a DUI are quite harsh, and the fact that BAC limit might be lowered in the future, a lot of people have become interested in consumer breath alcohol testers, that can help them find out what their blood alcohol levels are, before sitting behind the wheel.
A couple of years ago, various devices appeared on the market, that could be bought and used by anyone who wanted to check their blood alcohol content and see if they are under or over the legal limit. Back then, these devices were pretty expensive, which is why they were not that widespread, but today, you can buy a portable breathalyser for about $30, which is a very reasonable price and just about anyone can afford it.
Today, these portable blood alcohol testers are the size of an average smartphone, so that they can easily fit in your pocket, and you can bring them with you at all times. BACtrack is perhaps the most famous company that manufactures consumer breath alcohol testers, offering several varieties, with prices that range between $30 and $150. A BACtrack unit is based on a fuel cell sensor technology, that the manufacturer says ensures a professional grade accuracy. The device can be connected to an iPhone via Bluetooth, with the result of the test displayed on your smartphone. If the device shows that your blood alcohol content is 0.08% or higher, it means that it’s over the legal limit, and you should wait until you sober up before you get behind the wheel, or call a cab instead. In addition, the unit can provide you with an estimate on how much it will take for your blood alcohol content to get down to zero percent, so that you know when you are safe to drive.
However, these devices are not completely foolproof. For one thing, there is a chance that they mistake other substances, such as acetone, for alcohol, and give you a false result. Also, if you forget to get them calibrated after a certain period of time, they won’t provide you with accurate results.
All things considered, consumer blood alcohol testers can be useful, considering that they can deter you from driving under the influence, but they can also give you false results and lead you to believe that you are safe to drive, when in reality, you are not. That’s why you can’t rely on them, and whenever you feel like you are not in a condition to drive, it’s better to catch a cab or let someone else drive.
Alice Aires is an automotive fanatic and “safe driving” specialist. Her expertise includes subjects like traffic regulations and green car technologies. She is a writer for DMV.com, which is a collaborative community designed to help ease the stress and annoyance of “dealing with the DMV”.