Few investments in personal and family safety have a higher potential for positive economic, educational, and emotional impact as does the uset of a precision alcohol breath tester to prevent a drunk driving incident. Consider the range of possible life altering consequences from a one-time abuse of alcohol.
- The average cost of a DUI conviction can easily exceed $10,000.
- Life-changing events such as jail time, job loss, criminal record, bodily injury to oneself and others, or school expulsion.
- Loss of life to family, loved ones, friends and innocent victims.
- Debilitating stress and mental problems resulting from humiliation, embarrassment, guilt, regret, sorrow, remorse and shame.
Important Note: Monitoring of self or others is recommended to help prevent driving while impaired, not to determine suitability to drive over or under any legal limit. Alcohol impairment begins occurring at BAC levels much lower than the legal limit, so the only sensible mandate remains:
IF YOU DRINK, DO NOT DRIVE
Personal breath alcohol testers are available in all ranges of accuracy, reliability and price. Many are not to be trusted and should not be considered by serious users. These units are the mass produced semiconductor devices, imported and typically sold based on price by mass market internet, catalog, and store retailers.
Personal breath testers fall into two classes depending on the alcohol sensing technology employed, Fuel Cell or Semiconductor. Serious users should always choose fuel cell breath testers. Semiconductor devices are inappropriate for those interested in accurate BAC measurement.
Fuel Cell Breath Testers (LifeGuard)
Fuel cell breathalyzers are the ‘gold standard’ of hand-held alcohol testers for both personal and professional use. They are the choice of professional users such as Law Enforcement and serious personal users such as concerned parents and individuals who require measurement they can trust.
In fuel cell instruments, the breath is directed into a fuel cell with dual platinum electrodes where alcohol is oxidized and generates electrical current. The higher the alcohol content of the breath, the greater the output current of the fuel cell. This current is a direct indication of the amount of alcohol consumed by the fuel cell. By precisely measuring the current produced in the fuel cell, an accurate measure of Breath alcohol content (BAC) is recorded.
LifeGuard uses the Platinum Fuel Cell Technology that has the following performance characteristics not found in semiconductor devices.
- Alcohol specific. Semiconductor devices can give positive alcohol readings even when no alcohol is present. They will react to perfume, hairspray, gasoline, cigarette smoke, and breath substances such as acetone and ketones. LifeGuard measurements are always and only Alcohol specific.
- High accuracy. Lifeguard is consistently accurate across a wide alcohol concentration range from .000 to .400 BAC. Unlike semiconductor devices, the LifeGuard can report 3-digit BAC measurement accuracy because of the precision of its Platinum Fuel Cell Technology. No personal breath tester is more accurate than the LifeGuard.
- Calibration stability. Unlike semiconductors which require frequent re-calibration, LifeGuard recommends recalibration only once per year under normal use.
- Long working life. Unlike Semiconductor devices that have a short life span, LifeGuard Fuel Cell instruments have an expected working life of 3-5 years. Many Lifeloc professional fuel cell testers have been in the field and in continuous use by medical clinics and employers for over 8 years.
- Proven. Fuel cell technology in alcohol testing has been continually refined and improved since its introduction in the 1970s. It is the technology used in portable breath testing by Law Enforcement globally in their stepped up efforts to deter drunken driving.
- Reliable. The combination of long working life, calibration stability, alcohol specificity, and high precision all add up to a device that when properly maintained can be trusted to perform.
Know the Dangers and Limitations of Semiconductor Breathalyzers
Download our Free White Paper: Evaluation of Consumer Breath Alcohol Analyzers
This free whitepaper examines the accuracy and reliability of popular consumer breathalyzers as compared to their marketing statements.
In semiconductor devices a sensor is formed from a small and inexpensive bead of metal oxide, heated to somewhere around 300 °C. A voltage is applied to produce a small standing current. When alcohol or other substances come into contact with this bead, they change the surface resistivity and so too the standing current. The change in current is used to measure the concentration of the substance in the sample.
The drawbacks to semiconductor accuracy, reliability and trustworthiness include:
- Non alcohol specific. Semiconductors react to other volatile chemicals such as hairspray, gasoline vapor, cigarette smoke, and breath acetone.
- Short working life. Rarely longer than a year for many models depending on how much they are used.
- Sensor saturation. Sensor saturation with alcohol or contamination with smoke during a test can rapidly destabilize the semiconductor device and throw-off the results.
- Drift. Semiconductors show a wide variation in readings especially as the unit gets older and receives more use.
- Non-linear response. Semiconductors have a narrower and less linear range of alcohol measurement than do fuel cells. Semiconductors are usually calibrated at a "low" level and "high" level on either side of the DUI limit of .08 BAC as a way of accommodating the inherent inaccuracy of the technology.
- Passive testing. Many semiconductor devices are designed as passive testers only, meaning they detect the presence of alcohol but cannot quantitatively measure an accurate BAC level. The breath sample is taken without the use of a mouthpiece and is subject to a variety of environmental contaminants. These devices should never be trusted for precise BAC readings.
- Regulatory approvals. Most semi-conductor devices are imported from China or other Far East countries, and many semi-conductor devices are unapproved by the appropriate regulatory authorities before being sold. Those that have been approved are only approved as screeners. No semiconductor device has ever been approved for evidential use (to stand-up in a court of law) by any State Law Enforcement Agencies or the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Volvo's Fuel Cell In-Car Breathalyzer - Why put a fuel cell into a car's powertrain when you can instead put it into a little device to see if the driver is drunk? That's what Volvo has done....Read more.