In the United States, one person dies in a drunk driving-related accident every 45 minutes

Breathalyzers are a tool that tests a person’s blood-alcohol level. People can use this information to determine if they should be driving or not. 

If you’ve wondered how breathalyzers work, you’ve come to the right place. Our handy guide covers everything you need to know about this safety tool. 

What is Blood Alcohol Level 

Blood alcohol level, or blood alcohol concentration (BAC), is a term for how much alcohol is in your bloodstream. In America, people can have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. This is the legal limit in which you can still drive a car. 

This level of alcohol varies depending on the type of alcohol you are drinking. Your weight has a lot to do with how fast you will reach this limit. 

The general rule is to stick with one standard-size drink per hour. The following are examples of standard-sized alcoholic beverages. 

  • a 12-ounce beer
  • a five-ounce glass of wine
  • one 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits

If you’ve had too much to drink, you may have searched for the best DUI lawyers near me. If you are in this position, ensure you get the help you need. 

A History of the Breathalyzer 

The first breathalyzer was the Drunk-O-Meter, developed in 1931. This device collected a person’s breath into a balloon. The breath went through a solution in the machine. 

If alcohol was present, the solution would change color. The deeper the color, the higher concentration of alcohol. Although this was a start, looking at a color isn’t the most accurate way to see how much a person has had to drink. 

By the early 1950s, another breathalyzer device came onto the scene. This device used chemical oxidation for a more accurate alcohol level reading. 

How Do Breathalyzers Work

When you drink, the alcohol doesn’t get digested immediately. As your blood travels through your body, alcohol transfers from the blood to air sacs in the lungs. Breathalyzers use the alcohol in these air sacs to test how much someone has had to drink. 

Types of Breathalyzers

Most breathalyzers work by measuring the level of alcohol on the breath. There are several popular types of breathalyzers on the market today. 

Semiconductor Breathalyzer

This newer type of breathalyzer uses a semiconductor sensor to test breath for alcohol. When a person breathes into a breath analyzer, any alcohol present will create a chemical reaction. 

The reaction creates a small electrical current. The more ethanol on someone’s breath, the higher the electrical current. The current gets turned into a reading showing the amount of alcohol in the sample. 

Fuel Cell Breathalyzer 

Most police use this type of breathalyzer because the readings are most accurate. A fuel cell breathalyzer has a pair of platinum electrodes with a porous material sandwiched in-between. This material contains a solution of weakened sulfuric acid. 

When someone breathes into this device, the platinum electrodes oxidize any alcohol found. This reaction changes the alcohol into acetic acid and releases any excess electrons. The electrons flow to the platinum electrodes and show the BAC level of the breath. 

Different Breathalyzer Uses

Most often, you’ll see police using a breathalyzer. They use this device if they suspect someone has had too much to drink. 

The police only use breathalyzers that give the most accurate readings. This way, they have solid data to provide a court if necessary. 

You can also have a breathalyzer for your car. These devices, called interlock devices, are usually used for people with a prior DUI. 

You need a professional service to install the ignition interlock device in your car. You have to perform a breathalyzer test each time you want to start your car. If you have a BAC of above .08, you won’t be able to start your car. 

Dangers of High BAC Levels 

It’s common for people to enjoy themselves at parties, sports games, or other events. When drinking gets out of hand, you can harm yourself and others. 

When you have too much to drink, you will have a harder time controlling your bodily functions. Your breathing, temperature and heart rate can all start to shut down. 

Alcohol overdose usually starts as mental confusion or blacking out. It can progress to seizures, breathing troubles, and a slower heart rate. An alcohol overdose can lead to brain damage or death if not treated. 

Breathalyzer and BAC Facts 

Most modern breathalyzers are reasonably accurate. They usually have, at most, a .01 percent margin of error. 

The numbers that come up on a breathalyzer measure your BAC. The higher the number, the more alcohol you have in your system. 

A BAC is based on a person of average size. In reality, a person’s BAC can vary based on many factors. The following are factors that can impact your BAC. 

  • age
  • gender
  • strength of the drink
  • body type 
  • fat content
  • muscle content 
  • metabolism 
  • hydration 
  • food consumption 
  • medication
  • rate of consumption

You can buy a pocket breathalyzer to check your BAC at any time. It’s important to know that you can get pulled over even with a BAC of .08. It’s never safe to drink and drive. 

Understand Your BAC When You Know How a Breathalyzers Works

A breathalyzer is a helpful tool that can help determine if you’ve had too much to drink to drive a car. Asking yourself how do breathalyzers work can keep you informed before you drink. 

Breathalyzers aren’t the only interesting technology out there. Learn more by checking out our technology articles today!