Online breathalyzer tests are tools for calculating the estimated blood alcohol concentration level of a person using a mathematical algorithm. Online breathalyzer tests also estimate the time it takes before a person is completely sober. However, these alcohol tests only use statistics inputted into an algorithm and may not be accurate for providing a BAC reading. Furthermore, online breathalyzer tests are inadmissible as evidence and do not factor in other considerations when estimating BAC.
This article will review online breathalyzers, how they work, the ins and outs of blood alcohol concentration readings, and possible alternatives. These algorithm-based online tests may not be the best option for getting an accurate BAC reading. However, they may be the only choice for some looking to monitor their alcohol consumption habits better and ensure personal health and safety in the short and long term.
How Does an Online Breathalyzer Test Work?
For most people, an online alcohol breath tester will be their only option for getting a BAC reading. At times, it may have to suffice when looking for a quick method of assessing one’s intoxication level. Such online breath testers may help minimize the risks of excessive alcohol intoxication. Online BAC calculators usually involve keying in details such as the amount and type of alcohol consumed and the person’s age, weight and gender.
However, these online tools only provide a general estimation of one’s BAC levels. As a result, BAC calculators are unreliable for determining whether one has consumed too much alcohol or can safely operate a vehicle. Most online BAC calculators use the Widmark equation to estimate a user’s BAC. It states that the BAC is equal to the ounces of alcohol consumed, multiplied by a constant of 3.75 for men and 4.7 for women, and then divided by that person’s weight.
Unfortunately, in particular, cases where alcohol was consumed heavily over a long period. The Widmark equation overestimates BAC by 50-100% more. This can mislead the individual tested of the accurate measure of their BAC. Furthermore, this may not account for the other factors that affect BAC, such as medication, diet and pre-existing conditions such as diabetes. Fortunately, many online calculators know of their inaccuracy and state that driving is only safe when one has not consumed alcohol.
Pros and Cons of Online Alcohol Testers
- Accessible online
- Gives a slightly more reliable BAC reading at lower doses
- Quick results
- Does not factor in other factors that affect BAC readings
- Could be highly inaccurate as more drinks are consumed
- Inadmissible for use as evidence in the case of possible road or workplace incidents
Online Breathalyzer Test – BAC in Detail
The blood alcohol concentration or BAC is the amount of ethanol in grams per 100ml of blood. BAC affects a person’s perception, senses, thinking, motor and cognitive abilities at levels of 0.05 or above. In addition, excessive intoxication may reduce peripheral vision, delay reflexes, balance and hand-eye coordination. In addition, alcohol affects one’s physical and mental faculties within minutes. This is because the body tends to absorb alcohol faster than other substances.
BAC readings are the most accurate measure of intoxication from alcohol. There are many ways to check one’s BAC, through breath tests with a breathalyzer as well as blood and urine tests. Other people with little access to either resort to an online breathalyzer test to estimate their intoxication. However, as was already stated, such tests might not be as accurate. When people consume alcohol faster than their livers can metabolize it, this, in turn, leads to faster intoxication.
The amount of alcohol in the blood can vary depending on several factors, including the amount of alcohol injected, the rate of alcohol consumption, the amount of food eaten before consumption and individual factors such as age, weight and gender. In Australia, the legal limit for BAC is 0.05%. Exceeding this level and driving will result in hefty fines and possible license suspension.
Factors that Affect BAC
- Age – the ability of the body to absorb alcohol decreases with range, leading to faster intoxication
- Gender – women have less body water content and thus may get intoxicated faster
- Body Size
- Medications – may interact with alcohol and give inconsistent BAC readings
- Food intake
- Consumption rate
- Alcohol percentage
Alternatives to Online Breathalyzer Tests
As previously stated, many factors contribute to and affect a BAC reading. As a result, online breathalyzer or alcohol estimation tests aren’t the most reliable in checking BAC. How BAC levels affect the body differs from person to person. As a result, getting an accurate BAC reading without the proper equipment is very difficult. Many go to walk-in testing centres that employ blood and urine tests for accurate BAC readings.
However, the most convenient and effective measure of getting BAC is through a personal breathalyzer. Breathalyzer technology has significantly progressed over the years and is no longer exclusively available to law enforcement officers. In addition, personal breathalyzers are now affordable to carry and easy to use for those looking to monitor their alcohol consumption better. Furthermore, unlike an online breathalyzer test, a BAC reading from a personal breathalyzer can be used as evidence in court.
Breathalyzers come in various shapes, sizes and sensor types. The two most common are semiconductor breathalyzers and fuel cell breathalyzers. Fuel cell breathalyzers are the most advanced and are similar to the ones used in roadside alcohol tests and frequent drug tests in the workplace. In addition, fuel cell breathalyzers are highly accurate and result in fewer false positive results for those with diabetes or who are on low-calorie diets.
Advantages of Personal Breathalysers
- Avoid accidents and road incidents
- Keep track of how alcohol affects the body
- Monitors the decline of BAC
- Minimizes impairment
- Eliminates doubt that a person is below the legal alcohol limit for operating a vehicle
- Allows those who are employed in safety-critical jobs to check their BAC before working.
Online breathalyzer tests, though convenient and accessible, aren’t the most reliable in terms of accuracy. While such tests may give a person a rough idea of their current intoxication levels, they cannot take into account certain factors such as diet, conditions such as diabetes, hydration levels, body water percentages, age and weight. Furthermore, such tests might give a false sense of security in the case of those who consumed alcohol and still chose to drive.
Thus it is vital to find more accurate methods of measuring one’s BAC apart from online breathalyzer tests. Fortunately, getting an accurate BAC level is now more accessible due to the availability and development of modern personal breathalyzers. Such portable devices make it easier for habitual consumers of alcohol to monitor their consumption better and avoid untoward accidents and legal fees. Many are better off getting an accurate read than relying on rough estimations for BAC.