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Understanding Breathalyzer and It Works

A breathalyzer, or alcohol breath test, measures an individual's intoxication level. Higher BAC (blood alcohol content) means the individual is intoxicated; the higher the number, the higher the intoxication level. Law enforcement agencies often use this test to ascertain whether an individual was drunk driving – or even drinking and driving.

The laws concerning the further impact penalties often differ according to state and the kind of vehicle used. Federal laws consider someone with a BAC level at or higher than .08 percent a criminal. “Even minor criminal convictions can have adverse effects on your life for years into the future,” says Summerville Criminal Lawyer. Law enforcement agencies can tender alcohol breath tests in court.

Apart from law enforcement, individuals can also use this test personally, although it can be less sensitive with a higher error margin. Let us see how breathalyzers work, the results, and how you can drink responsibly.

How Do Breathalyzers Work?

An alcohol breath test typically has a mouthpiece and two chambers filled with liquid. The two chambers are connected to a meter, which detects color changes. To test for BAC, the individual will exhale into the mouthpiece; the breath enters a chamber filled with red-orange-colored chemicals like potassium dichromate.

Alcohol and the chemicals react, and the color changes to green; the degree of change determines the alcohol level. The breathalyzer contains a special sensor, photocell, which compares the difference in color and converts the results into numerical BAC values.

Are Alcohol Breath Tests Accurate?

Some studies have shown that personal-use breathalyzers were not always accurate or sufficient for testing the safety of driving after drinking. Additionally, user errors can create incorrect readings, thus affecting the BAC test results at home. Nevertheless, the level of accuracy an alcohol breath test has depends on the type of test used.

Be that as it may, researchers recommend home tests, citing their accuracy at about 95 percent. However, to ensure there is no error in reading, one should take the test at least fifteen minutes after drinking.

Interpreting the BAC Results

The numerical BAC values the alcohol breath test gives you indicate the level of alcohol in your blood. Below are the measurements and translations of different levels of blood alcohol content:

  • At .02, the individual experiences impaired attention and functioning, mood changes, relaxation, and some judgment loss.
  • At .05, the individual exhibits lowered inhibitions, lowered emergency response, exaggerated behavior, trouble steering the wheel, and inability to track moving objects.
  • At .08, the individual experiences impaired muscle coordination, ability to comprehend speed accurately, judgment, self-control, and focus.
  • At .010, the individual exhibits noticeable control and reaction time deterioration, inability to brake correctly or stay in their lane, and slurred speech.
  • Lastly, at 0.15, which is the highest, the individual may vomit, lose the sense of balance, and cannot pay attention to driving.

Conclusion: How Can You Drink Responsibly?

While consuming alcohol is entirely your choice, you must be safe. Not drinking responsibly does not only put your life at risk; it puts the lives of everyone around you at risk also. Below are steps to ensure you're drinking responsibly and keeping yourself and others safe:

  • Do not overdrink; one glass a day is best for women, and one to two for men.
  • If you plan to get intoxicated, even if it is only a little, have a designated driver who is alcohol and substance free.
  • In the absence of a designated driver, call a friend, taxi, or family member and find another way home.
  • Eat before and while consuming alcohol; it helps your body absorb it better.
  • Drink the substance slowly and paced, alternating with water at intervals.

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