FORT COLLINS- Ever driven drunk? Buzzed? Many people have. Many people die that way.
That doesn’t have to happen with taxis, Uber, Lyft, designated drivers and the advent of portable breathalyzers.
The latter is a trending tool to help you get home safely — and keep other drivers safe.
But that partying comes with some sobering consequences. Last year, 209 vehicle fatalities on Colorado roads involved impaired drivers, accounting for more than one-third of all traffic fatalities, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Forty-four people were killed in crashes involving impaired drivers in August and September of 2018, accounting for more than 20% of the impaired driving fatality total last year.
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With that in mind, CDOT is helping party-goers check themselves before getting behind the wheel. CDOT is offering 50% off BACtrack mobile breathalyzers to Coloradans through September, or while supplies last. Residents can visit codot.bactrack.com to place an order.
BACtrack is among the highest rated portable breathalyzers on the market, according to many review sites. The company offers a variety of models, ranging from $30 to $50 through the CDOT offer plus $7 for shipping.
But are these devices accurate at testing your blood alcohol level enough to help you steer clear of getting behind the wheel when you shouldn’t? And if so, how do they work and how do you use them?
Glad you asked. Here are answers to those questions.
How do the devices work?
When you breathe into a breathalyzer, sensors measure the alcohol content of your breath. In Colorado, you can be charged with driving while ability impaired if your blood alcohol content is 0.05 or higher and driving under the influence with a BAC of 0.08 or higher
How accurate are the devices?
It depends on how the device senses the alcohol on your breath. Top-rated devices when used correctly are accurate to a 0.001% margin of error. However, there are many variables that determine accuracy. Fuel center testers are more expensive, give more accurate results and last longer than semiconductor oxide-based testers. According to BACtrack, more than 30 states allow roadside testing by law enforcement using fuel cell testers.
How do I make sure my reading is accurate?
Wait at least 20 minutes after your last drink or cigarette before testing yourself. Make sure the mouthpiece is free of contaminates. Breathe normally before taking the test because hyperventilation and hypoventilation can affect the result. During the test, blow slow and steady into the mouthpiece until the device signals you to quit.
Despite the varying accuracy of these devices, there are other factors that can change the number, including your gender, size and metabolic rate.
Portable breathalyzers aren’t foolproof but will give you a relatively accurate BAC test. Just remember: Even if your BAC is below levels for driving restrictions, you should still find another way home if you feel impaired.
Source: Miles Blumhardt, The Coloradoan