What Is A Breathalyzer?
The Breathalyzer is a brand name alcohol breath testing device. The term “breathalyzer” is colloquially used to describe all breath testing machines. Different municipalities employ the use of various machines, but the most-used professional devices are the Breathalyzer, the Intoxilyzer, BACTrack, LifeLoc, and the AlcoSensor III, IV, and V. In an effort to avoid confusion about which device is used, an umbrella acronym is used – either EPAS (Evidential Portable Alcohol System), PAS (Preliminary Alcohol Screening), or PBT (Preliminary Breath Test). Breathalyzers are used by law enforcement as a basis for their DUI investigation. The results of the breath test, field sobriety tests, and the officer’s observations of the driver are used to formulate a police report to be forwarded to the District Attorney for review and potential DUI charges being filed.
The History Of The Breathalyzer And The 0.08% BAC Limit
In the 1930s, impaired driving became a national issue. The technology didn’t exist for law enforcement to make easy, expeditious, and inexpensive measurements of blood alcohol content. In the 1930s, Dr. R.L. Holcomb, calculated that the inherent risk of
causing an automobile accident increased six times at a 0.10% BAC (blood alcohol content), and 25 times at a 0.15% BAC. Throughout the 50s and 70s, The National Safety Council’s Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs (COAD) collaborated with the American Medical Association to establish scientific standards to define what “under the influence means.” In 1954, Dr. Robert Borkenstein invented the first-ever BreathaLyzer. Borkenstein’s device corroborated the earlier findings by Dr. Holcomb, that showed persons with a 0.08% BAC concentration and above, had a significantly higher likelihood of causing an automobile crash. By 1973, every state in the country had adopted the Implied Consent Laws that exist today. In 2000, Congress passed the DOT Appropriations Act adopting a .08% BAC requirement for every state. States that were non-compliant lost their highway construction funds.
How Does A Breathalyzer Work?
There are three major types or brands of professional breath testing machines used in DUI investigations today. Here, DUIAuthority will explain how the Breathalyzer works. In future articles, we will address the other machines, the Intoxilyzer, BACTrack, and the AlcoSensor, and other consumer-based models available to the public.
The Breathalyzer is a fuel-cell based testing device. The driver breathes into the mouthpiece and a fuel cell measures the (approximate) alcohol content by creating a chemical reaction that oxidizes the alcohol in the breath sample. This process creates an electrical current. The current is then measured to determine the driver’s breath alcohol content. The more alcohol that is present in the breath sample, the higher the current.
While breath testing devices can depict an accurate measurement of the presence of alcohol in the breath sample, they are not perfect. Breath testing devices need to be calibrated regularly to ensure their accuracy and efficacy. Circumstances surrounding a person’s health – such as body temperature, body fat, gender, presence of acid reflux, and emotional state – can affect the results of a breathalyzer.
Can I Beat The Breathalyzer?
Yes. By having a zero amount of alcohol in your system – you can beat it. Many have attempted to deceive the breathalyzer and failed. Smoking cigarettes, sucking on pennies, using mouthwash, or trying any other ridiculous method is ineffective and may even increase the BAC reading on the breathalyzer. The decision to submit a breath sample to law enforcement is a big one with far-reaching consequences. Check DUIAuthority’s States section to see if your state allows you the opportunity to speak with an attorney before submitting to a breathalyzer.