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Breathalysers

Hi, with the NSW Government now introducing a zero tolerance policy for drink (and drug) driving, with an automatic minimum three month licence suspension, I’m interested in acquiring a personal breathalyser to keep in the car. But, how do I choose? I suspect that, like most other gadgets, there’s a vast range in their performance, and I’d rather not find out that mine is inaccurate or unreliable with my license.

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I don’t drink or consume alcohol in any amount that would contribute to a BAC of 0.05%, I might have a Bundaberg Ginger Beer every so often but that is my limit :slight_smile: So I don’t have a need for a personal tester but I can see the benefit for those that do and don’t want to come near the level where the new penalties come into play.

Are there any that have received any good reports from say RACQ or similar motoring organisations? Or are any recommended by overseas organisations who are interested in motorist safety?

I can see a few are are avilable to purchase eg from AutoBarn:

https://www.autobarn.com.au/car-care-touring-accessories/safety-security/touring/alcohol-testers

Some are certified to AS 3547 which specifies the standard for personal breathalysers not used by Police.

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Probably the best way to have some level of confidence is use the same device ‘plod’ uses and get it re-calibrated to manufacturers spec regularly - not cheap.

I had one years ago that was all over the place, even after re-calibration. Trusting your licence to these things is a big call in my view … one of the reasons I think zero limits for some drivers is ridiculous - especially when you consider the legal limits for pilots/etc (I may stand corrected) …

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Good you are watching out for others as well as yourself by being safe rather than potentially sorry.

For one range to look at, check Andatech and particularly the models with fuel cell technology, and then sign up forthe 6 monthly check/calibration. Not the cheapest way to go, but as you rightly point out, it can be Very Expensive to be caught DUI.

I have had an Alcosense Stealth for a few years and the calibration has never had to correct more than 0.002 so far, and it has always been ‘out’ to the high side (conservative). Mine is purported to be accurate to +/- 0.001 at 0.1% BAC where most are only +/- 0.005 at 0.05% BAC, a lesser standard.

Some of the newer electronic ones (cheaper than fuel cell) are reputably good noting a ‘calibration’ is installing a new sensor.

Despite the breathalysers quality and accuracy, some only read to 2 decimal places, eg .05, and some read to 3 decimal places but their accuracy is such that 0.045 is as high as you want to read to be sure since they can be +/- 0.005.

The most cost effective way to buy IME has been from an ebay merchant - some such as OzInnovations are authorised resellers and the product gets 100% support. Avoid any product that cannot be recalibrated, or where the claimed cost seems very low.

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It may be accurate at the time of one tests oneself, but one’s blood alcohol can change over time (can go up or down depending on the alcohol and what is also consumed).

If one is unsure if they have drunk to much to drive, then possibly they have.

I agree with @grahroll in relation to what I consume when driving. I might have half a stubbie of light beer or a very small amount of wine…neither would result in the 0.05% being approached. If I chose to drink more than this I also chose not to drive…even if doing drink counting may indicate that I am possibly at or under the limit.

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Absolutely, and from the Andatech website it reinforces a once off test is not the way to test oneself.

Remember that it can take a while for the alcohol to reach your bloodstream, so check your BAC level 20 minutes after your last alcoholic drink and every 15 minutes or so until it is steady and starting to go down.

BAC is dependent on whether and what you have recently eaten, what you have been drinking, how much you have been drinking, body mass, gender, metabolism, and personal tolerance. And as for prosecution, many think 0.05 is OK but 0.050 is DUI, 0.049 is not.

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Which suggests that if you are trying to do the right thing and your tester says fail, there needs to be a considered option.

For some of us that considered option resolution process is often confused by the lateness of the hour, mind altering attributes of alcohol, and latent testosterone level?

I tend to attract all three attributes at the same time and plan to not need to test the effectiveness of any device, or abstain. One less stress factor.

And usually less costly than a bottle or two of Penfolds Bin 707?

This probably suggests also what might be the justifiable level of expense for a reliable alcohol breathalyser, just in case you do need one to be sure. :partying_face:

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Notwithstanding what has been outlined above, it appears that State Government recommend particular brand of alcohol ignition interlocks (here is the Qld ones and NSW info).

If I was going to purchase one, I possibly would sway towards one that a government authority approves/recommends there is likely to have some basis to support the recommendation (maybe accuracy, robustness, reliability etc). I wouldn’t rely on a over the counter/retail or online purchase hoping that it is accurate enough for one to use.

From the information available, it appears that there is some maintenance/servicing of the devices including regular calibration to ensure its ongoing accuracy. Such needs to also be factored into any purchase decision.

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Why would someone voluntarily buy and install an ignition interlock? They are required by ‘court order’ upon being DUI. Although an interlock is a breath tester of sorts, it is not a ‘breathalyser’ per se, but more of an enforcement device.

Unless you changed subjects from interlocks back to breathalysers and the subject reverted, interlocks have to be supplied/installed by a licensed or accredited supplier. This from Vicroads. The links provided above have pulldowns that reflext similar requirements in Qld and NSW

NSW: the interlock devices are installed by one of three accredited interlock service providers in NSW. These providers are also responsible for the ongoing servicing of the devices. Costs associated with participation in the scheme must be paid to the provider by the participant.

QLD: You will need to arrange to have an interlock installed in your nominated vehicle and you will have to pay for all costs including the installation, rental, servicing and removal of your interlock. You cannot buy and install your own interlock. … For more information, contact either of the approved interlock providers:

The OP was about breathalysers, a different genre of device.

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VicRoads uses the AS 3547 standard as their basis for approved devices. I am guessing that anything that meets or exceeds that standard is appropriate for use. The Standard however does not require recalibration but only highly recommends it as it is stated they cannot require that as part of the Standard per “The Committee was aware that recalibration of electronic breath alcohol testing devices at regular intervals is vital if accurate results are to be obtained. Provision of recalibration facilities to the general public at a reasonable price, should, in the opinion of the Committee, be a prerequisite for the sale of electronic breath alcohol devices for personal use. Obviously, such a requirement could not be included in an Australian Standard product specification, and it is therefore only included as a recommendation for consideration by the appropriate regulatory authorities and by the suppliers of these devices”.

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They can also be purchased privately

If one is concerned about potentially blowing over, like it appears @Richieis, it may be a more of a fail safe solution than a retail breathalyser.

The government recommended/approved interlockers websites also have fees applicable in each state. I would assume that the costs for an DIY offender would be similar to a private user (as I expect the government wouldn’t be subsidising the offender’s installation).

It appears the device and installation starts over $400. While this is substantially more than a handheld retail breath tester (which can retail less than $100) , it depends on what value one puts on the device, one’s licence and risks of using potentially low accuracy retail type tester.

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I had not considered special cases in the context of a punter just wanting to do the right thing and be sure.

Cursory trolling the net suggests 'well over $400’ plus suggested maintenance.

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As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, do these new laws make any sense at all? Is there some evidence to suggest that they will reduce the rates of drink-driving, or (more importantly) reduce the numbers of people killed or injured on the roads?

I see from one article that around 68 people died in alcohol-related crashes in NSW in 2018, with around the same number dying from drug-related incidents. Looking at the total NSW road toll (.pdf) for 2018 of 353, that suggests that 19% of fatalities involve alcohol and/or other drugs. NSW has an interactive chart that also allows such analysis, and this states that 14.1% of 2017 fatalities involved alcohol. 19% involved fatigue, and 42.9% involved ‘speeding’. Is the NSW government targeting the right behaviour?

More broadly, what about examining all causes of death? NSW reported 52,778 deaths in 2017, so that road toll is a minuscule 0.67% of all deaths. 528 people died of “other sepsis” - presumably in most cases preventable! 14,469 died from malignant neoplasms (cancer). 694 deaths were ascribed to non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus - also entirely preventable.

The ABS figures appear a bit dodgy. 4 males and 3 females died in NSW from diseases of the ear in 2017, for a total number of… 3? (Totalling the sub-categories gives 12 deaths that were ear-related, while male+female in the sub-categories totals 14.) This is explained at the bottom of the table, where a note states that small numbers have been randomised to protect individual privacy.

The ABS puts total transport accident fatalities for NSW for 2017 at 368, out of a total of 3,094 deaths from “external causes of morbidity and mortality”! There were 445 accidental poisonings, and 880 recorded incidents of “intentional self-harm”. I say “recorded”, because in a lot of suicides if there is any possible doubt the incident will be reported elsewhere (e.g. accidental poisonings).

There are plenty of ways to do harm to oneself and others; I’m not sure that ‘zero-tolerance’ laws will have any meaningful effect once we consider the effect of existing laws (starting in the 1970s) on reducing the road toll. A small proportion of the population will continue to drive a vehicle after drinking too much. A small proportion of them will have accidents, a small proportion of which will be fatal. You cannot reduce these things to zero.

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But you can collect revenues and direct dollars into particular pockets! And therein lies a conflict of interest.

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On an international level Australia’s road toll is at the better end of the statistics. Lower fatality fates than most other nations including the USA.

Wikipedia is my semi reliable source.

In the list of likely better performers The common factor may not be draconian legislation, but a difference in national attitude.

They include - Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Japan and Switzerland. Interestingly the attitudes to drinking in each of these examples are likely very different! It would make an interesting comparison to Australia. And to know just how commonly their locals rely on personal testers. I recollect seeing TV adverts in Japan for these devices, despite the almost universal access to good public transport.

The two most meaningful statistics may be the fatalities per 100,000 population which is easy to determine and the number of fatalities per 1.0 Billion vehicle kilometres. This second stat is less commonly available. However for countries such as Austria, Canada and France, Australia is on par with 5.2 deaths per billion vehicle kms (2016 is the latest comparison).

It makes a powerful comparison when those that know look to our big mining companies, Rio, BHP, Xtrata etc. They all have zero harm policies, and are not conflicted in demanding zero drug and alcohol levels in employees. There are no fines or points at stake. Just employment?

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I’m loving all the virtue signalling! Nothing wrong with being virtuous!

My typical pattern of virtuously infrequent drinking is to have a few over dinner with friends, change to water for a while, and then after the passing of possibly quite a lot of time and a lot of wee, drive home. By this stage, my blood alcohol concentration would surely be on a downward trajectory to virtuous sobriety, having not ingested anything further for some time. But I’d feel more assured with an objective measure than my faillible capacity to keep tabs of my drinks, sense of sobriety and time.

The idea of an ignition lock is way outside my parameters, I’m afraid!

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For me it comes down to this - at the time, a taxi or ‘sober-Bob’ is always better and cheaper. In the case of sober-Bob - s/he drinks nothing - so there is no doubt. And everything else including their tucker is free, paid for by the drinkers - and share it around. If nobody want’s to ‘Bob’ then its the taxi - always cheaper when you consider one DUI is game over, and the number of taxis from that point is large - or drive without licence then get caught even more expense - its a no-brainer for me.

As has been alluded to - the personal bretho comes into its own the next morning - sometimes you know you are ‘still tanked’ but other times there’s the question … and for zero licences thats a big question, cant even blow 0.01 which to me seems ridiculous.

There is nothing on the market, at face value, that I’d trust - short of a full LEO setup, which is prohibitive. A seriously good review - a ‘scientific lab review’ for want of a better term, is all that could convince me. This isn’t a ‘taste test’ …

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Quality of infrastructure is almost certainly something most of the best performers have in common. It is surprising that Australia performs so well per billion km, given the state and age of some of our roads. That the US is lower in the rankings is entirely unsurprising for a country that does not enforce seat belt and drink driving laws consistently.

I suspect the US is lower because of the emphasis on individual rights at the expense of the community rather than the open slather of variably enforced and sometimes differing laws. The dominant national value system is ‘It is my right’. Fill in whatever you want for ‘it’. ‘It’ can be driving to guns to whatever, unless one side of politics wants to assist your freedom by restricting it to suit their sanctimonious piety.

Even red light cameras that make sense for safety (and are not subject to gaming or the debate of ‘safety cameras’ that put tickets in the post for speeding) are banned in most places there because instead of educating people to stop on red, they caused rear enders.In Houston TX the first 5 seconds of red generally means ‘floor it’ so only the most foolish and in need of auto body repairs stop ‘prematurely’. :roll_eyes:

One benefit of a breathalyser is that it attunes one to your skills or lack thereof at different BAC. Without trying to read anything into my wording, when I have had too much and I know it and I am not about to try driving, my BAC is usually still in the 0.07 range. The US national standard for DUI is 0.08. It is appalling that 0.08 is acceptable but in the US as in Australia, profits matter and getting any influential industry off side is never on for the pollies.

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Australia was 0.08 until the mid-80s. I even remember the NSW jingle for the change:

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