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Breath alcohol concentration (BAC) can be measured by blowing into a breath alcohol device. The results are given as a digital readout, which shows the level of alcohol in the breath at the time the test was taken. This kind of test is ideal for point-of-care testing to give an immediate result. It does not measure historical use of alcohol. The devices are also compact and very portable. For these reasons, breath alcohol devices or breathalysers, are regularly used for on-site workplace testing and by law enforcement agencies.

Use at the roadside

With the festive season upon us and the Christmas roadside drink-drive checks in full swing, the use of a breathalyser is a common tool for today’s police force to check motorists who have overindulged on alcohol. The breathalyser was first used in October 1967 as a roadside device to gauge a driver’s breath–alcohol levels.

The drink-drive limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 35 μg alcohol/100 ml breath. The limit in Scotland is different to the rest of the UK and is lower at 22 μg alcohol/100 ml breath. There are strict drink driving penalties if you are caught over the limit.

Exactly how many alcoholic drinks this equals to is different for each person. The way alcohol affects an individual depends on:

• weight, age, sex and body metabolism
• the type and amount of alcohol drunk
• what has been eaten recently
• stress levels

Use in cars

Devices which breath-test drivers before their cars start are being offered in County Durham in a bid to crack down on drink-driving. Known as ‘alcohol interlocks’, the Durham force is the first in the UK to pilot the sensors, which immobilise a vehicle if the driver is over the legal alcohol limit. They will initially be offered to repeat offenders on a voluntary basis.

Statistics from the Department for Transport show that in 2016 an estimated 9040 people were killed or injured in drink-drive accidents, a rise of 7% from 8470 in 2015. The total number of accidents where at least one driver or rider was over the legal alcohol limit rose by 6% to 6070 in 2016.

AlphaBiolabs can provide a number of devices for breath alcohol testing dependent on your individual or business needs. For information on any of our alcohol testing solutions including continuous alcohol monitoring, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at info@alphabiolabs.com.