back to article El Reg tests portable breathalyzers: Getting drunk so you don't have to

Celebrating Christmas and the New Year is traditional in many cultures and, humans being what they are, usually involves the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. Of course, that consumption comes with a cost. The liver, which processes over 90 per cent of booze consumed, can take a hit from a heavy session. Plenty of …

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Pint

Product Placement!

Gotta love the Anchor Steam prominently displayed! I think I remember popping out between classes in Chicago and picking up a few of those for lunch. Those were rosier times when worrying about how many you had wasn't connected with drunk how you are, but saving enough for some post pub grub.

Happy New Year everyone!

Have a pint!

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One further test...

Try using one shortly after using mouthwash

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Anonymous Coward

Scotland

I sure the recently introduced reduced blood alcohol level just in time for the festive season and tonight's Mahogany celebration is as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool.

I'm for a sensible BAC level which caters for some alcohol in the blood the morning after festivities. The people that need to be stopped are those who go out to flagrantly break the law and drive after they are inebriated. Lowering the levels won't have impact on these people's behaviour.

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Re: Scotland

To be honest, as a resident, I don't think most folk mind too much - I think though that the French model, where lower levels of BAC are countered with points, a fine and a Road Safety course, rather than a blanket ban would have been preferred, but overall, I don't think folk see it as a problem.

I won't be driving tomorrow :)

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Re: Scotland

the French model, where lower levels of BAC are countered with points, a fine and a Road Safety course, rather than a blanket ban would have been preferred

Unfortunately that creates a culture where people think it's not a problem to get caught once, only the second time (when you'll get a ban) is "serious", so "one for the road" is still commonplace. It's one reason why the French death toll on the roads is twice the UK one, for the same population numbers.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Scotland

what, you say the 2CV has nothing to do with that?

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Re: Scotland

what, you say the 2CV has nothing to do with that?

Haven't they all been crashed by now?

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Unless you're going to test these toys along side a device that is proven accurate - like the police ones that cost thousands, this is a complete waste of time. You've still got absolutely no clue whether the devices are in the least bit accurate.

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Smartphones

Well.. If they could stop you from bidding and and texting, whilst intoxicated.... that would be a bonus

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WTF?

Where's part 2 ..

with the teardowns ?

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M7S

In the UK

You should be asked the questions "have you had a (n alcoholic) drink in the past 20 minutes or a cigarette (to the best of my recollection) in the past two?". If the answer is yes then a period of time should be allowed to elapse before the roadside test is administered. If you've just left the pub it can be an uncomfortable period of time but it's there for a valid reason. The issue of "mouth alcohol" has long been recognised as distorting results, so this period of time is allowed as it is the concentration in your bloodstream, then exchanged into gas in the lungs, that is the factor regarding impairment. This may also be the procedure in the US (or parts thereof) but I have no knowledge of this.

I'd also echo Dominion's caution against reliance on these devices if they're not regularly re-calibrated. Virtually all medical devices should be, down to the glucometers used in home testing, even the manual sphygmomanometer (spelling that could be a good test for impairment) in a first aid kit can easily go out of kilter.

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Re: In the UK

But the thing is I can down 4 pints in 5 minutes and drive home and get home before my blood stream starts to get illegal amounts of alcohol in it so that would indeed be an uncomfortable wait.

This was tested using police breathalysers but without using a car around the time when they started the countback thing after an argument with a mate - took nearly 30 minutes to get to 80mg.

I wouldn't try it and drive - could barely breathe standing up!

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Re: In the UK

I was recently tested in Scotland, and was asked whether I had a drink in the previous 20 minutes, but not the cigarette question. Had three cans the previous night and the result was zero, so happy days!

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Coat

Disclaimer madness!

"both manufacturers were keen to stress that the results you get from their devices shouldn't be used to test whether you're safe to drive."

Oh right. These devices, that have only one purpose for existing, shouldn't be used to judge what they were made for ok? I know they can't replace equipment that costs thousands but come on. Isn't that like having a coffee cup with "hot beverage" marked on it? Oh.. America... gotcha

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Anonymous Coward

RE. Re. In the UK...

I had an idea a while back to use flicker fusion as a dual function BAC and fatigue indicator.

The trick here is to use two different colours on a diffuse RGB LED and release the button when they look the same, repeating the test with alternate colours and getting an average.

Can be calibrated to alarm well before the legal limit and would show fatigue before it became dangerous.

Turns out that driving while tired (cough shift work /cough) is equivalent to a BAC of over the legal breath limit (35mg) but this used to be hard to quantify using a roadside test.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RE. Re. In the UK...

For me the red and blue on an RGB LED separate even when I'm sober. Parallax effect through my glasses or something.

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Pint

Agreed!

"Having one beer and then waiting 20 minutes for the next one is not normal drinking behavior" - I absolutely, definitely NEED that on t-shirt. Those in agreement are welcome to upvote.

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I can think of a far better app which asks a few simple questions

1 - Do you fancy a kebab?

2 - Is it me or is this place full of incredibly attractive people?

3 - Can you play pool like the ghost of Hurricane Higgins?

If the answer to all 3 is 'Yes', you should probably catch the bus.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I can think of a far better app which asks a few simple questions

1- Normally no, as the station I go home from has a Cornish pasty kiosk.

2- Yes, even when sober, if it's an office party. The organisation I work for is mostly 20-something ladies apart from tech and back-office.

3- No, but I'm happy to have a game anyway.

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drank a gallon of beer and got a taxi home

But then the police came to get the driver's taxi back.

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Anonymous Coward

Unfortunately...

This is a true story.

Chap comes into the Police station, I'm on bar duties. Says he was out last night and wanted to come in to get breathalysed before he drives to his sisters house down south.

Very smart, I say, and I use the intoximeter which registers a fail. I tell him he's over the limit and he asks if he can leave his car in the carpark for a few hours then as he drove to the station to get breathalysed!

*facepalm*

The problem with this stuff is there are too many members of the public relying on these devices prior to getting into their car.

It's not a defence in court and really, if you've got to that stage in life where you simply can't not drink if you know you're driving, you need to have a long chat with yourself.

That's also why Hampshire police wouldn't have recommended a model - they would be putting themselves in the firing line for endorsing a product and also, if it failed and you got caught drunk driving.

Meh.

I'm on Shloer!

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Trollface

Re: Unfortunately...

Yeah, ok, fine, but who's on first?!?

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Anonymous Coward

Simple solution

If you want an accurate reading if you are safe to drive, drive around and find a cop and ask them to check your BAC.

They will be happy to let you know.

{}}:>))

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Anonymous Coward

To spit or swallow, the age old question.

The moisture affecting the readings/operability of the devices is intriguing.

Would the machine fail to make a reading if a quantity of spit was injected along with the breath ?

How much spit would be required to consistently make breathlysers fail ?

What would be the effects of a particularly viscous grebby ?

Science demands answers.

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Boffin

Experiment stopped too soon.

The real application of these devices is the morning after. Am I safe to drive after last night's session? When you are drinking it is fairly trivial to work out/remember if you have drunk enough to be illegal to drive. If you don't know that then it past time you worked it out. Most people here in Scotland where the limits have just dropped have done that.

So do it again but give the previously inebriated hacks the devices to take home to see if they are legal to drive to the office (regardless of whether they do so or take some other transport option).

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Additional

Oh and back home in New Zealand they have just done what Scotland has done and lowered the limit. There the police have the power to randomly stop and test you. They set up what are optional road blocks where they wave you over to stop. They found lots of people over the limit the morning after.

Unlike here in Scotland where our parliament has the power to change the limit but not the sanction, in NZ an interim sanction period is in effect for those caught over the new limit but under the old one. You get a fine and points but your license is not suspended. Once the new limits are bedded in this will change.

But be aware if you come up here to Scotland and go on a wee bender. Driving the next morning might not be wise.

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Pint

The aim is, of course,

to pass it round your mates and see who can beat the high score.

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Big Brother

Breathalysers in Pubs

As someone who is technically spastic, I walk in such a way that the untrained observer could well

think I'm drunk. There was even a pub once where the barmaid refused me entry as a 'previous' troublemaker. ( I have never been involved in trouble in any pub anywhere ever. )

Obvious solution for any pub where they think I'm drunk is to give me a breathalyser. At least I START OUT sober.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Breathalysers in Pubs

Then you publicly tweet about their disability discrimination and get Scope involved?

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Re: Breathalysers in Pubs

for the record I have never tweeted, full stop ( or used any other social meeja, for that matter ).

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Silver badge

About 20 years ago I did training and support for a breathalyzer device we had rolled out across the US. It didn't take long for me to lose count of the number of late night calls asking how to recalibrate them.

That said, one interesting thing did come out of the experience. IF you are moron enough to go driving while under the influence, make sure you have an unopened bottle of something in the trunk. IF you have an accident, take out said bottle and have someone else break the seal, then chug it before the police arrive. They will never be able to prove that the alcohol in your system wasn't from that fresh bottle. You would also have a defense against open container laws.

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make sure you have an unopened bottle of something in the trunk

I saw this one on CSI. Sara's dad, I think, was involved in an accident while over the limit, and she told him to find the nearest bar and down some shots. He would be able to say he drank because he was so shaken up, and the cops would not be able to prove he was drunk while driving.

Of course, I certainly do not advocate this. Just don't drink and drive. I, personally, don't have any if I am driving, and drink conservatively if I have to drive the next morning. I would also have no problem reporting someone to the police if I was reasonably sure they had drunk too much and got in a car, even friends or family if I failed to convince them not to (including threatening to report them). Luckily I have very few friends or family who would be stupid enough, and have never had to do this.

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Anonymous Coward

England and Wales

As a police officer who has in the past 24 hours carried out station procedures (where you blow on the machine costing several thousand pounds) for two drink drivers (the last one was two hours ago, she is still in a cell sobering up), I can safely say that if you drink drive then you're an idiot and you deserve to get caught.

Almost everyone I encounter is so pissed they should have known better. The limit is 35 microgrammes in 100 millilitres of breath in England and Wales. I have no idea what that equates to in American BAC numbers unfortunately but that is not an insignificant amount of alcohol. For most it's more than 'one too many', it's probably three or more alcoholic drinks. NB. if you do not tolerate alcohol well then even one strong alcoholic drink may take you over but for most the above holds true.

Those who we catch routinely blow double or more (both tests were 100 or more). That equates to a very boozy night out. But even those who blow lower stand out like sore thumbs in terms of their driving abilities - they travel too slowly, too quickly, fail to stop for traffic signals, indicate pointlessly, brake pointlessly, cannot keep in lane on any kind of bend and not to mention that even one or two drinks will leave a smell of intoxicants on you for hours. They also have a tendency to panic when a police car pulls behind them.

Here, the police need a reason to breathalyse you (if you have a crash, if you break the traffic law or if the officer suspects you have alcohol on you) but they can stop any car for any reason. This means they can stop you and see if there are grounds to breathalyse you but it's not an automatic right. This is what the police do routinely in the summer and during their Christmas drink drive campaigns and as a result of them, they catch loads of people out. The officers who decide which cars to stop are incredibly good at it and often get results, even on the 'morning after'.

The morning after is tricky but you are all adults. If you're hanging out of your arse, you're unlikely to be fit by any stretch of the imagination but a rule of thumb is one drink (normal beer not double shots etc - call them two drinks) per hour AFTER you've stopped drinking. So if you've had eight bottles of beer and finish drinking at 2AM, go nowhere near a car until at least 10AM. Your mileage will vary significantly depending on what you've drank over what period and on other factors such as stomach contents, build, metabolism, genetics, sleep etc. If you pass out, alcohol in your stomach may continue to be absorbed into your blood after you wake up. My own rule is that I will never drink until after lunch after any kind of night at the pub. If it's anything heavier, I skip driving for the day.

Most are not happy at getting caught drink driving but the fact is if you do it, you've only got yourself to blame and there is very little way out of the charges. The procedure is agreed nationally and has survived hundreds of appeals and loopholes, the machines have been proven reliable and accurate and most officers are incredibly good at following the procedure. Only if you're borderline do you have any hope of getting out of it (blood test being lost, coming back negative etc).

I think it is absolutely right that drink drivers lose their licence for 18 months or more and get fined. It's definitely right that repeat offenders go to prison. Far too many accidents and fatalities occur due to drink drivers.

For reference the police use devices such as those from Drager (costing over £700 each) for roadside tests. In my experience the results tend to be within ±10% of what the station machine reads. The boxes are calibrated monthly and are extremely reliable. I for one would not rely on one of the devices reviewed nor any kind of disposable test! If I had any doubt, I wouldn't drive but if I wanted such a device, there is no way I'd waste £100-200 on one of these, I'd shell out for something Home Office approved.

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Chz

Are these certified for use?

I'd love to get something for driving in countries (France being the primary example) where BAC testers are mandatory to carry in the car. But I also know that they need to be certified by the French authorities, and the last time I went into Halfords precisely none of the electronic ones were. Which makes me suspect that a French company makes the disposable, single-use ones.

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Drive-Right pill

Just invent one of those. Ask Mr DiGriz.

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We just need the damn Google self-driving cars to get here pronto and put this discussion to bed. I'm sick of seeing idiots texting in their car, reading the paper, or whatever. I'd love to have a few pints after work and be able to go home in my own car. Provided it drove itself.

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