DennisBeaverJanuary 22, 2010 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

Today’s story will be of special interest to anyone whose life is in some way connected to alcohol. Invite friends over for a nice dinner with an excellent California wine or to watch a game, chips and beer included? Suspect your teenagers of drinking? Our story is for you.

Know someone who has been arrested for a DUI? Have a good friend or spouse who drives after having several too many and only pure luck kept them from being arrested? There is something which will dramatically lessen the chances of a DUI arrest for people who are going to drink and drive.

By knowing your blood alcohol contact prior to driving, keeping it well below the legal limit, if stopped and tested by the police, the chances of being arrested go way down. The chances of causing an accident are also going to be reduced dramatically.

Your blood alcohol contact can be known by using the same type of device that law enforcement employs to determine blood alcohol content. Consumer versions are called “personal breathalyzers.” You may have seen ads for them — at fairly low prices — and might even own one.

The following e-mail from an Avenal reader tells an often-repeated story of how reliance on the wrong personal Breathalyzer proved to be a big mistake.

But it showed .04!

“To help my husband avoid a second DUI, I bought him a personal breathalyzer. I wanted him to know his blood alcohol level and quit before he reached the .08 limit if he was out and would be driving. The device claimed to be accurate and the instructions said to wait at least 30 minutes after the last drink for a correct reading.

“He was at a bar and tested himself in front of the bartender and friends. It showed he was .04 — well under the limit. He then got into his car to drive home,” she wrote.

“Two blocks from the bar he was pulled over by the Highway Patrol and asked to blow into the officer’s breathalyzer. It showed .12, obviously well over .08 limit and he was arrested for DUI. At court, the judge commented that most of these devices simply cannot be relied on. He lost his license and is going to do jail time.

“Are there any personal breathalyzers which you have researched and would recommend?” my reader asked.

Many not worth owning

“Many consumer breathalyzers on the market are not worth owning, as they are dangerously inaccurate. If there is one area where accuracy is critical, measuring your blood alcohol content is one for sure,” maintains Barry Knott, CEO of Denver, Colorado based Lifeloc Technologies. (

Knott’s comments are not those from someone merely trying to sell a product. You and the Law feels that owning a personal breathalyzer is not merely a way of avoiding a DUI arrest, but is in fact socially responsible. However, the differences in breathalyzer technology is something that needs to be understood before wasting your money or placing your life and that or others at risk.

Lifeloc is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of Breathalyzers used by law enforcement. In response to complaints about the cheap breathalyzers out there today, Lifeloc is also the first to introduce a consumer breathalyzer which uses extremely accurate fuel cell technology, the same as found in law enforcement units. It is called the LifeGuard Personal Breathalyzer. I have tested and compared the LifeGuard to police units. It is just as accurate.

Sobering facts

Here are some sobering — and not widely known facts about drunken driving. First of all, you do not have to be “drunk” to be seriously affected by alcohol. Each alcohol drink equals roughly .02 BAC. At .05, the probability of a crash increases significantly, and after .08, climbs rapidly. High BAC levels — .15 or above — accounted for more than half of the alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

“Dennis, people are going to drink and drive, no matter what. Last year in California there were close to 220,000 arrests for DUI, over 6,000 of them felonies. Think of how those numbers might have been greatly reduced — and the lives saved — if drivers had a realistic idea and would act upon just how high their BAC was before they drove,” commented Knott.

For any consumer thinking about a personal breathalyzer, it is critical to understand how the device gives you a blood alcohol contact number and if you can trust it. But right now, think: Fuel cell good. Semiconductor not so good.

Next week we will look at the technology and give you specific recommendations on what’s out there and what You and the Law recommends seriously considering.

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