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How Do You Use a Digital Breath Alcohol Tester?

08 May, 2023

A digital breath alcohol tester in the hand

A digital breath alcohol tester, also known as a breathalyser, is a portable sensing device to measure Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Using it is straightforward, and it gives the result in seconds. To use the device, press the power button, blow into the mouthpiece, and wait for the results to show. Hence, individuals will know their alcohol levels immediately. Moreover, breathalysers come in several variations to help enhance their accuracy according to different needs.

Alcohol intoxication significantly contributes to road accidents and crashes in Australia every year. Unrestrained consumption can cause severe impairment, explicitly affecting the ability to drive. Hence, driving laws include the regulation of alcohol use and BAC levels. As a result, more people use alcohol testers to manage their intake and avoid penalties. The following sections will guide how breathalysers work and how to operate them. It also includes the factors that may affect breath tests.

How a Digital Breath Alcohol Tester Works

Various test methods can determine the BAC or amount of alcohol in the system. The most accurate procedure is a blood sample. However, it is intrusive, time-consuming, and costly. Other processes are breath, urine, and oral fluid sampling. Among these methods, the digital breath alcohol tester is the most convenient. It is a non-invasive device for estimating the BAC. It works by oxidising alcohol in the breath through sensors.

The oxidation process produces a reaction change when alcohol comes in contact with the sensors. It generates small electrical charges proportional to the concentration of alcohol in the blood. Furthermore, electronic breathalysers utilise two sensor types – semiconductor and fuel cell. Many personal devices use semiconductor sensors as it is more low-cost. However, they are sensitive to other gases that may affect the result. For example, they may mistake acetone in the breath for ethanol.

The second type is the fuel cell breathalyser. The sensors are known to be ethanol-specific and less reactive to other substances, including acetone. Thus, it gives higher accuracy and is unlikely to produce false positives. Moreover, fuel cell sensors are more stable and deliver consistent results in consecutive testing. It is the technology used in law enforcement, hospitals, and workplace breathalysers. Some personal digital breath alcohol testers also employ fuel cell sensors at an affordable cost.

Practical Aspects of Breathalysers

  • Roadside alcohol screening – for determining drink driving offences
  • Workplace testing – for minimising alcohol-related risks
  • Patient monitoring in treatment centres – for tracking the recovery of people with alcohol abuse
  • Personal testing – checking the BAC after alcohol consumption
  • Emergencies – testing all parties involved in an accident
  • Justice system – monitoring people under probation

Viewing the BAC results from a smartphone

How to Operate a Digital Breath Alcohol Tester

Operating a digital breath alcohol tester is straightforward, involving a few steps. To conduct a breath test, attach a new mouthpiece and turn the device on. The unit readily activates and warms up the sensors. It initiates a countdown timer, around which it takes for the sensors to be ready. At the signal, take a deep breath and blow steadily to the mouthpiece. Afterwards, wait for the BAC results to show on the screen while the sensors analyse the breath.

The procedure may take a few seconds to a minute to complete. For retesting, it is vital to wait for a few seconds, depending on the unit. Moreover, the device will display an error notification if there is an issue with the testing process. For instance, the breathalyser will indicate a flow error message if the provided breath sample is insufficient. It may happen if the subject does not blow long enough.

Moreover, digital breath alcohol testers with advanced functions have adjustable settings for efficient use. In particular, the BACtrack S80 Pro‘s settings are customisable according to user preference. You may set the blow time longer for increased accuracy. In addition, pro-grade devices have an audible warning system set to the country’s driving limits. However, you may adjust it to alert to different BAC levels. Lastly, the unit of measure can be adjusted to suit an individual or workplace’s requirements.

Additional Features

Breath testers may come with extra functions to enhance practicality and accuracy. Some of these are:

  • Enhanced linear response – measure alcohol up to 0.400% BAC.
  • Bluetooth connection – deliver the BAC results directly to the smartphone.
  • Photo verification – professional devices integrate photo capture to ensure the right person is giving the sample

Monitoring the BAC through a smart watch

What Can Affect Digital Breath Alcohol Tester Readings

Various elements may influence the performance of digital breath alcohol testers. For semiconductor breathalysers, it is possible to have false positive BAC results because of the presence of other substances. Aside from high acetone levels, exposure to alcohol-based products may cause inaccurate readings. Therefore, it is vital to use the device in a vapour-free room. Furthermore, taking the breath samples at the right temperature helps get reliable outcomes.

Other factors include mouth alcohol and taking medications. It is important to wait 15 minutes after drinking before using a breathalyser. This eliminates the likelihood of residual alcohol in the mouth from interfering with the results. Likewise, alcohol interacts with medicines, which may lead to high BAC. Knowing how to use a breathalyser and following the breath test guidelines ensure getting the most accurate results. Moreover, the sensor type plays a significant role in the accuracy of the test.

Fortunately, advanced sensor technologies make digital breath alcohol testers more reliable in professional environments. Fuel cell sensors are the standards in roadside and workplace screening because they give rapid and more accurate results. Additionally, the sample collection is easy and non-invasive. Thus, they can detect and measure alcohol in the system immediately. BAC monitoring is essential to prevent it from escalating to dangerous levels during alcohol consumption.

BAC Levels and their Meaning

A person’s BAC correlates with the severity of impairment. The following are the BAC ranges and their effects:

  • 0.01-0.039% – relaxing or euphoric effects
  • 0.040-0.059% – lower inhibitions; minor impairment in judgement and memory
  • 0.060-0.099% – slow reaction time; impairment in vision, hearing, and reasoning
  • 0.100% & above – gross motor impairment, nausea, and mental confusion

Conclusion

In conclusion, digital breath alcohol testers are cost-efficient devices for testing and monitoring the BAC. It is used mainly in safety-critical areas, such as on the roadside and workplaces, to detect and manage safety risks. Likewise, alcohol testing is vital after an accident to check if alcohol use is a contributing factor. Moreover, they are essential in healthcare and legal cases, such as monitoring patients undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse or people under probation.

Aside from its professional uses, a breathalyser also helps many individuals manage their alcohol intake and prevent severe intoxication. A person can easily operate a breathalyser without needing supervision. Furthermore, it only takes a few steps to use a breath tester. Devices such as BACtrack from Breathalysers Australia enable alcohol testing at a touch of a button. You may get a pro-grade device for personal use for the most precise results.

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