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Let’s start with this simple fact: You should not drive if you’ve been drinking. And by using designated drivers and ridesharing apps, it’s easier than ever to stick to that rule, even during the holiday season when you have a packed calendar of parties and family gatherings that may include alcohol. But problems can arise, for example if you drive yourself to a party with the intention of staying sober, only to find that after a few hours one drink has turned into two or three and now you’re trying to decide whether to get behind the wheel. If you feel impaired by the alcohol, the decision is easy: Do not drive.
But what if you feel fine? Well that’s when it can be tricky because your blood alcohol level may still be beyond the legal limit. That puts you and everyone else on the road at risk. A personal breathalyzer can be a very useful device in this sort of situation because it can help you make the responsible decision. It can also be useful if you are trying to persuade a friend not to drive — hard to argue against clear data!
By blowing into the breathalyzer’s mouthpiece for about five seconds, the unit measures the blood alcohol content (BAC) of air in your lungs. One thing to keep in mind: results are most accurate if you haven’t had any food or alcohol for at least 20 minutes prior to testing.
1. BACtrack Mobile
This is a really compact unit that transmits results wirelessly via Bluetooth to a free app that you download on your phone. The app enables several features beyond just giving your BAC. You can save and track your BAC over time, add photos and notes to your results, estimate when your BAC will return to zero, and even request an Uber from the app. One of the most interesting features is the option to guess your BAC while the sensor is warming up. Then the app shows your difference between your “guess-timate” and your actual alcohol level. It was very eye-opening to me to see that I consistently estimated my BAC to be lower than it really way.
2. BACtrack S80 Select
This is another top-seller from BACtrack, and multiple sources have rated it as producing results that most closely match those of professional police breathalyzers. This is a standalone unit — blow into the mouthpiece and the results appear in about three seconds on the digital screen. It comes with six mouthpieces and a hard shell carrying case.
3. AlcoHAWK Elite Slim Breathalyzer
This breathalyzer has a mouthpiece that folds down and three removable covers so multiple people can use the unit. Press one button, blow into the device and results appear on the digital screen.
4. Vastar AG60
When results are above 0.05% BAC, the unit sends out an alarm to warn you. This breathalyzer will automatically turn off five seconds after finishing a test to preserve battery power. It comes with 10 mouthpieces.
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