DennisBeaverJanuary 14, 2012(Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

The reason to own a personal breathalyzer was clearly stated in the email we received the day after Christmas:

“Thank you for your articles about the importance of owning a personal breathalyzer, even for families where alcohol is not consumed. This past Christmas, we bought one at Costco, giving it to our nephew, Ted, on Christmas Eve. He is a student at College of the Sequoias in Visalia.

“Its use prevented him from getting into a car with one of his friends just as they were about to drive away from a Christmas party where a great deal of alcohol had been consumed.

“Ted asked his friend to blow into it. The first result was a .16, which was twice the legal limit. They waited a few minutes, and he next blew a .20, almost three times the limit and clearly dangerous.

“As Ted’s parents live out of state, he phoned us and we picked up both boys and took them to our home, where they spent the night. The following day, his friend had little memory of the night before.

“Your articles gave our family information which at the least saved one young man from a DUI, and at the worst, a horrible auto accident. For over 20 years, I have worked in law enforcement here in the Central Valley, and all I can say to you is thanks. There could have been no better Christmas possible for our family. R.C.”

Wide applications in business and at home assure driver safety

The presidents of two of the nation’s largest sellers of personal and law enforcement breathalyzers, Keith Nothacker of BACtrack Breathalyzer and Barry Knott at Lifeloc Technologies, told us they often receive similar letters and cite safety as the reason to own a personal breathalyzer.

They both also stressed that the only safe way to drive is simply not to drink at all and to understand that impaired driving often results from blood levels far below the limits at which you can be arrested for DUI.

“The appeal, usefulness and application of these devices – where they can and should be used – is extremely broad, not just for someone wondering if it is safe to drive home from a bar, restaurant or party,” Lifeloc’s Knott underscores.

“Breathalyzers appeal to many people,” agrees Nothacker. “Often customers have jobs which requires entertaining with little chance to avoid drinking. They want to be at zero or as close to zero as possible.

“Another use is to test anyone driving a company vehicle, such as pizza delivery drivers. Also, activities which have nothing at all to do with driving benefit from testing, such as when visiting a rifle range and planning to shoot. Operators of hands-on activities – such as go-kart tracks – are routinely testing all drivers,” he points out.

Lifeloc’s Knott sees parents and other family members as a large and growing market. “We hear from customers who confirmed their under-age kids were drinking. Then, the kids, knowing they would face consequences for being discovered, see the breathalyzer as a serious deterrent.

“But,” he adds, “We should not forget the educational factor in testing ourselves and friends. It is virtually impossible to know your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) without testing, and most people greatly underestimate that number. So, by correctly testing ourselves, the breathalyzer leaves no doubt, even the morning after the party when you could still be far over the limit,” he stressed.

“These devices have an important place at the workplace,” Knott continues. “Drugs get more attention than alcohol, but alcohol is the bigger problem in terms of safety issues, such as workers’ compensation claims, damage to property, auto accidents and much more. Employers understand how bad drugs are, but many do not see the greater cost to their business that alcohol abuse can mean.”

Where to from here

Researching online is the ideal starting point, and the companies referred to in this article have excellent websites.

As with many other technologies, the price of fuel cells used in breathalyzers has come way down. Today you can pay from around $100 to slightly over $300, depending on features. We can only vouch for those we have tested from BACtrack and Lifeloc, whose consumer version is called the LifeGuard. We found both company’s devices to have law enforcement accuracy.

Finally, Lifeloc has an excellent, Department of Transportation-approved, highly interactive and engaging online course for business owners and supervisors, “Reasonable Suspicion For Supervisors,” which we can recommend.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.