November 9, 2010

BACTrack personal breathalyzer review





This was an interesting review to write - there are only a limited number of things you can do to review  a breathalyzer and I don’t have access to sophisticated test equipment. So when it came to the operational review I had to resort to the “manual” approach with the aid of Mr Jack Daniels. Ahh, the things we do for science!
Before we get to that though, a quick overview. The BACTrack is designed to detect the presence (and amount) of alcohol flowing around your bloodstream. The value it gives is in the form of a Blood Alcohol Concentration (or BAC)%. It does this by measuring a sample of your breath.
Even a small BAC% can impair reaction times and judgement (try playing a video game after you’ve had a few beers if you don’t believe this) but the real danger is that you may feel OK to drive “the morning after the night before”, whilst still having a level of alcohol present in your system.

Packaging

The BACTrack is a stylish, portable unit about the size of a mars bar. In the box you get the BACTrack, a handy protective carrying pouch and a comprehensive manual. As well as operational instructions the manual also includes information on the effects of alcohol at various %BAC concentrations and the current drink-drive limit in the US. You’ll need to find a pair of AA batteries, they’re not included.

So how well does it work?
This is where things get interesting. I don’t make a habit of getting systematically drunk but down to the local bar I headed, complete with friends to double check readings and notepad to record results:
- Throughout the evening our readings rose and fell as expected and broadly in line with each other. In other words, the device was consistent.
- After a drink (and the requisite 20 minute wait) we registered .001 - i.e some alcohol in the system.
- After a few more drinks - waaaay past the time I’d think about getting into a car - the unit only registered .004% This is theoretically inside the “safe” drink drive limit in both the UK and US yet there’s no way I’d have considered driving.
- At the end of the evening (again waiting about 20 mins after the last drink) the reading was 0.12%. According to the manual there would be “Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgement” amongst other things. Which, from my dim recollection of events sounds about right!
- Taking readings at various points after this showed a steady decline in BAC%, but even 7 hours after the last drink (i.e the next morning) it still showed .001% before finally reaching zero an hour later.


Conclusion

For the most part it seemed to work as advertised and getting the readings hours after the last drink was certainly enlightening. If you make a habit of late drinking and early starts you should definitely look at one of these (or change your drinking habits…).
I don’t know what happened in the middle though. We all thought we were way past the limit for driving but the BACTrack showed us safely inside it. The only thing I can think of is that we may not have waited long enough between drinking and taking a reading, so the alcohol was still in the process of entering the bloodstream and the BACTrack couldn’t read it.
Or - and this is also possible - the US limits are simply too high!

31 comments:

  1. Man, really gonna need one of these for my big weekends! Would be totally worth it in the long run, and hey-- you can't put a price on human life, right?

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  2. Yeah, one of my friend one took his car and was barely over the limit. I'm pretty sure he could drive safely home yet he could have avoided this with this gadget! He got had a 400$ ticket, which is five times the prices of this little tool!

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  3. I know half my friends could use one of these haha And it's pretty affordable as well :]

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  4. Oh wow, I would like to try this thing out.

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  5. ordering one of these immediately. no joke

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  6. Or just designate a driver. Or a cab.

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  7. friend of mine has a key chain breath test thing, I got so drunk with her one night trying to test it out, said I was able to drive right before I puked and passed out.

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  8. I'll need this for Saturday night

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  9. lol great post...I might have to look into this further :)

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  10. It seems interesting... Maybe I will get one to never drive when I'm drunk :")

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  11. Sick review, I don't drink and drive but this is something interesting to show at the parties

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  12. Good post! Looking forward to reading you next one

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  13. "try playing a video game after you’ve had a few beers if you don’t believe this"

    Haha yes, after a few beers I can't play StarCraft 2 for anything.

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  14. I want one, I think everyone should have one to adjust to these new liquor laws in my area

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  15. Pretty handy, specially when it comes to the after-clubbing =P

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  16. Reminds me of the Nick Swardson stand up. It's the worst present for an alcoholic because it just turns into the game "How high can we blow it".

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  17. this is so usefull! lol i could put this to use a million ways

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  18. This could be useful when I go to the bar on fridays

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  19. @ McGinnisWorks

    Yeah, there once was one of these in a bar and we all ended up paying 2$ every now and then to see who could drink the most without passing out!

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  20. never knew this kind of thing was legal to have for people other than cops.

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  21. Why not? This gadget could save someone's life!

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  22. I've driven home drunk too many times to realize I've been driving home drunk... .... ... uhg.h. I think I'm drunk now..

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