Self-check for breath alcohol content: Play it safe

Take a guess – How long does it take your body to break down the alcohol from three or four glasses of beer or wine? Four hours? Six? Or even more? The fact is that when you ask the question, ‘Am I safe to drive?’, you just might get it wrong. This is because the breath alcohol content value resulting from a particular quantity of alcohol differs from person to person. Our infographic shows why this is the case.

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AlcoDigital 3820 Breathalyzer

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One measure – two standards

Our example shows how alcohol is broken down differently in the body: Peter and Claudia celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends. Both drink exactly the same: a few measures of beer, a champagne toast at midnight, and then a nightcap at the end of the evening. When they leave the party at 2am, they both have 128g of pure alcohol in their system. So what is Peter’s breath alcohol content, and what is Claudia’s?

Why is making a realistic self-assessment so difficult and risky?

1. Alcohol differently affects each individual
Breath alcohol content calculations on the Internet or via an app usually take into account your age, gender, size, and weight. Further individual factors such as illness, medication, how full your stomach is, or the individual breakdown rate will affect the impact.

2. Hardly anyone keeps a precise record of what they have drunk
In the pub, you’re given the bill at the end of the evening – making it possible to keep track of your alcohol consumption in order to estimate your breath alcohol content. At a private party, however, it is not so easy to remember what you have drunk and how much, and that becomes more difficult with each glass. In addition to the total amount of alcohol consumed, you need to take into account the temporal distribution of consumption over the night (or day).

3. At what point is an individual unsafe to drive?
Alcohol can have an effect at a breath alcohol content of only 0.3 – the equivalent to the amount of sparkling wine that Claudia had. On the one hand, the person is relaxed and in a cheerful mood. But on the other hand, her driving ability could be affected by a slight reduction in visual performance, decreased concentration, reduced power of judgement and delayed reaction times, as well as an increased appetite for risk-taking. If this results in poor driving or leads to an accident, this ‘relative unfitness to drive’ is deemed as a criminal offence. The likelihood of being involved in an accident when in a slightly drunken condition with a breath alcohol reading of 0.5 is already twice as high as with 0.0*.

*Source: TÜV Süd, https://www.tuev-sued.de/fuehrerschein_pruefung/aktuell_informiert/alkohol_und_drogen_im_strassenverkehr/wirkung_von_alkohol (Retrieved: 12.11.2015)

Is there a rule of thumb? Not when it comes to calculating blood alcohol levels!

Putting into practice a rough rule of thumb is somewhat risky. And blood alcohol calculators on the Internet or apps are only as accurate as the data entered. People who want to act in a responsible manner when driving need accurate readings. An alcohol breath test is easier, faster and more accurate than a ‘theoretical’ calculation. More about the various measuring methods can be found in the Dräger Review Special, ‘Drugs and Alcohol’.

Download Dräger Review (PDF)

Precision breath alcohol content check

Fast, clean and above all, reliable: Using the AlcoDigital 3820, you can measure your breath alcohol content with the same technology and precision as police officers. In just a few seconds you have an accurate result you can rely on.

Please note

The morning after drinking, your driving can still be impaired even if you are below the legal drink drive limit. If you do not feel safe to drive – do not drive – even if you are below the drink drive limit.

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