Personal breathalyzers have come down in price to the point where most drivers who can afford to go out drinking can also afford to carry one. Given the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol—from serious criminal penalties to the possibility of a crash with significant potential legal and health consequences—carrying and using a personal breathalyzer can be a meaningful safety precaution.
Breathalyzers work by estimating the blood alcohol content (BAC) of a person’s blood from a breath sample. There are two common types of breathalyzer with varying degrees of accuracy. The type most commonly incorporated into consumer-grade devices uses semiconductor sensors to measure BAC. These devices are relatively cheap to produce but can result in false positives due to other chemicals in or on a person’s body. For example, someone on a low-fat diet can see a false positive due to natural chemicals produced by the body as it burns fat.
Law enforcement uses breathalyzers that incorporate fuel cell sensors, which are more expensive than semiconductor sensors but also significantly more accurate. For law enforcement accuracy is crucial: breathalyzer test results can be essential evidence if a driver needs to be prosecuted for a DUI. A consumer may not need the professional level of accuracy for personal use, but some people may want the extra reliability that comes with devices based on fuel cell technology.
Although breathalyzers can give a good picture of whether someone is over the legal BAC limit, they are not perfect. Only a blood test, taken in a clinical setting, can give the most direct and reliable reading. Breathalyzers can give false or skewed readings for a range of reasons:
- Picking up chemicals other than alcohol from beverages (medicines, naturally occurring chemicals from body processes, etc.)
- Glitches and electrical problems, which can be caused by issues like low batteries
- Deterioration from being left in hot cars all the time
- Mistakes made by users who don’t know how to get accurate readings
Nonetheless, a personal breathalyzer can be a great way for drivers to ensure that they are safely under the legal maximum and can drive. Too often drivers leave dinner parties or bars convinced that they are sober enough to drive when in reality they are well above the legal limit. Terrible consequences can result: high fines, suspended or revoked drivers’ licenses, and serious legal liability for causing an accident while under the influence of alcohol.
For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and auto accident cases. We are here to answer your questions about auto accidents involving drunk drivers. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.