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BACTrack personal breathalyzer review

July 31st, 2008 by Marc in Health /Fitness, Miscellaneous Reviews

0019as 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.

Operation

Press the button. Wait for the beep. Blow hard into the shiny blue light. There’s not a lot else to say, it’s as simple as that. One thing worth mentioning is that there’s no direct contact with a mouthpiece so it’s possible to share the unit around a group of people – or prove to your friend just how drunk (s)he is when they insist on driving home!

The manual also mentions the need for recalibration every 12 months or so to keep the unit accurate. Calibration costs $19.99 and the unit reminds you when it’s due by flashing a sign on the display.

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 UK 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 UK/US limits are simply too high!

One Comment on “BACTrack personal breathalyzer review”

BACTrack breathalyzer reviewed » Coolest Gadgets Says:

July 31st, 2008 at 10:10 am

[...] a close look at the BACTrack breath tester over on our sister publication coolest reviews. Follow the link to see how well it worked in the [...]

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