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Personal Breathalyzers - Do they work?


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I was wondering if anyone has a personal breathalyzer that actually exists and works... I've googled breathalyzer products, but most of the ones for sale are "professional" ones and cost $100+.

I wasn't looking to spend that much, because it's just for personal use whenever I go out and have a few drinks (not even once a week).

I'm not a drunk, and the only reason I want one, is because sometimes if I have a couple drinks, I feel fine to drive, but don't want to take any chances if I'm definitely over the legal limit. I don't mess around with drunk driving, and if I consume a lot, I will use a DD, or stay the night at a friends house if I'm drinking there...

I've also seen little key-chain ones, but they look so cheap, and didn't get good reviews... Any advice?

Edited Sep 01 2013 16:23 by coach_k
Reason: locked to prevent unneccesary zombie and/or spam bumps
20 Replies (last)

I don't think any of the commercially-available breathalyzers work very well.  A friend had one back in my college days, and we mostly used it as a novelty item (hey, let's find out how much our blood alcohol rises if we shotgun a beer!).

I think it's best just to assume that if you drink more than one drink an hour, and especially if you haven't eaten, that it isn't safe to drive.

I'm sure you're right sparkie... ah well, sounded like a good idea at the time! haha

*ahem*

If I were going to rely on a device to test my breath alcohol to help me decide if I should be driving, I would use the device the cops use, which is the Alco Sensor IV.  At least, that is the device they use to make arrest decisions; the actual "official" breath test at the station is usually the Datamaster CDM.  But by the time I'm blowing into the CDM I've already been arrested, and my goal is to avoid that altogether.

I would not trust any cheaper devices, personally, not if my freedom is on the line.

A less expensive alternative is for you and all your friends to learn how to perform the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.  It's very easy to do and is considered the most reliable of the field sobriety tests because it is an involuntary reaction.  If you show any signs of nystagmus, don't drive.

My last piece of advice is to assume that the machines are wildly inaccurate (which I firmly believe they are, for reasons I won't bore you with here; if you're curious, here is a good summary) and assume that anytime you drink, no matter how much, getting pulled over is likely to lead to you being arrested for DUI.  DUIs are big money makers for the states, so pretty much the cop just needs a whiff of alcohol on your breath and he's seeing $$$.  Don't do anything to justify being pulled over in the first place - don't speed, don't roll through stop signs, and for the love of god, make sure your headlights are on.  If you do get stopped, admit nothing (for god's sake don't say "I only had five beers in five hours," you will go to jail saying things like that), invoke your rights to remain silent and to have an attorney, say as little as possible (your name is pretty much the only information you have to give the cop; it is entirely voluntary whether to answer any other questions, but don't expect the cop to tell you that), and decline all field sobriety testing (except the breath test at the police station, if things get to that point).  Cops can only arrest you if you provide them with the evidence they need to nail you.  So don't give it to them.

And to add to the wonderful advice just provided by Lys, you don't have to be over the legal limit to get a DUI or to be found guilty of a DUI. Most states have the DUI laws written so that if you are driving under the influence you can be prosecuted and found guilty even if your blood alcohol amount is lower than the legally drunk percent.

So, you could get a DUI even if you are not legally drunk.

Original Post by moonikins:

And to add to the wonderful advice just provided by Lys, you don't have to be over the legal limit to get a DUI or to be found guilty of a DUI. Most states have the DUI laws written so that if you are driving under the influence you can be prosecuted and found guilty even if your blood alcohol amount is lower than the legally drunk percent.

So, you could get a DUI even if you are not legally drunk.

o.O

Holy crap - I didn't even know this... if you can still get a DUI even if you're under the legal limit, what's the point in having a set number, then?

Learn something new everyday :)

DUI -- Driving under the Influence

DWI -- Driving while Intoxicated

Nuances of the same but different offense...

Ohio used to have DWI, now it's all DUI. You can sometimes get lesser penalties and not have to take the alcohol class if you are not legally drunk. But you are still driving under the influence.

Same in WA.  The standard is usually something obscure like your driving is "affected by" alcohol, which can mean anything or nothing depending on the sympathies of your jury.  Usually a key fact is the reason for the stop - if you were swerving across the lines, the "affected by" argument sits a lot easier than if you got stopped for a broken taillight.

Oh, and the cops will always testify that you had an odor of intoxicants about your breath or your person, had bloodshot watery eyes, fumbled with your purse/wallet, were slow to respond, slurred your speech, had difficulty understanding instructions, and/or any combination of the above.  Cell phone videos are your friend if you get stopped - can't tell you how many videos I've seen of people who appear perfectly fine, but you'd think they were falling over drunk from how the police report is written.

Maryland laws for drinking and driving:

If your BAC is over 0.07%, you can be arrested.

For BACs of 0.07% - 0.08%, you can be arrested and charged with DWI.

If you test above 0.08%, you can be arrested and charged with DUI.

And what is 0.08% really? One beer in one hour?

I read that in Maryland, you can be arrested and charged with DUI if your BAC is .04-.07.  Didn't go hunting for the statutes, though.

What is .08?  Nobody f*ing knows.  The test isn't designed to be accurate, it is designed to facilitate DUI prosecutions.  I saw the Datamaster CDM field tested once.  They gave a girl who was probably 5'5" and about 130 pounds a screwdriver made from one of those mini bottles of vodka (about 1.5 oz).  After 15 minutes, she blew a .13.

Point being, assume if you've been drinking anything that you will blow over the limit.  All of the guidelines (one drink per hour, etc.) may be perfectly valid in guesstimating your actual impairment and your actual blood alcohol level, but they do not appear to have any correlation to the reading the machine will produce.

My 20 year old nephew had a device that looked of high quality. He used it as a novelty. It seemed to be accurate when it was new. It got messed up by egregiously drunk people breathing through it, and from breathing through it right after taking a swig of alcohol and/or after using mouthwash. It never seemed to read right after that.

Here in Newfoundland (and I believe most of Canada) refusing the breathalyzer carries the same penalty as getting a DUI, so therey's no point in refusing it.  But other than that, yes, you don't need to give the officer anything other than your name, license and registration.

And always remember that the police can NEVER NEVER search your car or your person without a warrent, unless you give them permission to.  So if the cop asks you to open you purse or your trunk you can refuse.  I can't tell you how many times I've seem people say yes on COPS and other TV shows when the officer asks them to open their bag/purse.  Most officers won't bother trying to get a warrent for a simple roadside as it takes hours to get one. So if you don't let them they won't search.

Original Post by knowan:

Here in Newfoundland (and I believe most of Canada) refusing the breathalyzer carries the same penalty as getting a DUI, so therey's no point in refusing it.  But other than that, yes, you don't need to give the officer anything other than your name, license and registration.

And always remember that the police can NEVER NEVER search your car or your person without a warrent, unless you give them permission to.  So if the cop asks you to open you purse or your trunk you can refuse.  I can't tell you how many times I've seem people say yes on COPS and other TV shows when the officer asks them to open their bag/purse.  Most officers won't bother trying to get a warrent for a simple roadside as it takes hours to get one. So if you don't let them they won't search.

 They can search those areas if there is probable cause.  Also, the plain view rule is pretty universal.  If they think they see something--gun, drugs, etc. they can get in and take it.

Don't forget also that most states have an additional law about accidents.  If you get into any kind of accident regardless if it's your fault or not then the BAC is halved.  So if some fluke happens, cat runs across the road and you bump your fender, the alcoholic limit is now half what it would have been.

Fines, lawyers and aggravation all add up, it's much cheaper to sleep it off in your car, take a cab, a bus, call a friend, etc.  If in the slightest doubt don't drive.

In most of the US, I believe that you require that any field testing equipment be sterilized before being used...the thought of some drunk dude's germs anywhere near me is just gross!  If you can legally avoid taking a field test I recommend it as field equipment is much more likely to be in poor repair/unserviced/open to interpretation.

Personally I tend to go with 1 drink every two hours and eating for safety's sake.

It's a precentage - a small one. Women are more affected than men because they don't break down alcohol so well. A large glass of a strong wine can already tip you over (here the limit is between 0.03 and 0.05)

We had a bishop stepping down from her job last year because she was discovered 'drunk driving'. She had two large glasses of white in one long evening over dinner and felt fine. (I thought it was a bit of an overreaction but the press was tearing into her and she was having private relationship issues she didn't want spread out in the papers)

The designated drivers I know have one beer or wine per evening, very rarely two but that's already pushing it. Better save than sorry.

Better invest the money into the occasional cabride. :-)

Original Post by smw:

.

 it's much cheaper to sleep it off in your car,

 You can get arrested for that here too.  In Newfoundland if you're in your car and have the keys you can be charged with drunk driving even if you aren't driving.  Even if the car isn't started.  Even if you're in the back seat.

The law was originally passed so that police didn't have to wait until drunks were actually driving before they could arrest them.  The theory was that this way you could stop them before they actually get on the road and become dangerous.

My former father-in-law was arrested when he tried to sleep it off in the back seat outside the bar.  He even had a designated driver, but he wasn't feeling well and so decided to wait in the car for the DD to be ready to leave.

He also got handcuffed to the bars and beaten by 3 cops while in his cell, but that's another story. 

I saw a chart both online and at the liquor store that correlates the average female/ males weight with your BAC. It says someone who is 120 lbs (myself) can drink 2 drinks and be under the limit; I really don't think this is the case because last weekend I went out to a Mexican restaurant and had 2 margaritas one bottom shelf and one made with Patron; I was drunk and couldn't drive. I just turned 21 and will not drive unless I've had just a drink and that drink cannot be along the lines of a Long Island or an AMF. A lot of people use the one drink rule.

Original Post by roxysparkles:

Maryland laws for drinking and driving:

If your BAC is over 0.07%, you can be arrested.

For BACs of 0.07% - 0.08%, you can be arrested and charged with DWI.

If you test above 0.08%, you can be arrested and charged with DUI.

And what is 0.08% really? One beer in one hour?

an average-sized, healthy adult male can metabolize about one drink per hour. women don't metabolize alcohol as effectively because we don't produce as much of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol. but there are many other factors that will affect not only how effectively an individual metabolizes alcohol, but how strong the effect of the alcohol is.

here, there is no blood-alcohol threshold on impaired driving. BC's new impaired driving laws are so tough that bars and restaurants are suffering for it. i rarely even have one if i'm driving, and if i do, i wait at least an hour after before going home.

luckily, i'm within walkable distance of about 1000 restaurants, pubs, and bars.

and even the portable breathalizers that the police use at the roadside aren't perfectly accurate. that's why if you blow over, they take you to the station to blow in the more accurate, non-portable one.

Original Post by pgeorgian:

....

luckily, i'm within walkable distance of about 1000 restaurants, pubs, and bars.

....

That is pretty damn awesome.

yeah, and i take advantage of it at least 8 times a year :)

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