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What Exactly Is a Breath Alcohol Test?

What Exactly Is a Breath Alcohol Test?

When you consume alcohol, it enters your stomach and small intestine. It is taken into your blood, which transports it throughout your body, including to your brain and lungs. When you breathe, you expel it.

A breath alcohol test determines the amount of alcohol in the air you exhale. This measurement is used by the gadget to determine the amount of alcohol in your blood. That figure is referred to as your BAC, or blood alcohol concentration.

It may rise as quickly as 15 minutes after drinking. BAC is normally at its peak roughly one hour after drinking.

Are there several types of tests?

Manual or electronic tests are also possible. The majority of cops utilize an electronic gadget the size of a walkie-talkie. When you blow into a mouthpiece, it provides an instant readout. You may be requested to repeat this several times in order for the officer to obtain an average reading. It only takes a minute and doesn't harm.

A balloon and a glass tube filled with yellow crystals are used in the most popular manual test. You blow into the balloon, allowing the air to escape into the tube. Depending on how much alcohol is in your system, the crystal bands in the tube change color from yellow to green.

To read the findings, follow the instructions that came with the instrument. In general, one green band indicates that your BAC is less than 0.05%, which is under the legal limit for driving. Two green bands indicate that your BAC is between 0.05% and 0.10%, while three bands indicate that it is greater than 0.10%.

You can buy either type of test for yourself if you want to make sure you’re safe before you get behind the wheel. The manual ones are less expensive.

Is It Accurate?

Not always. There are a few things that could cause an error in the reading.

If you had a drink 15 minutes before the test, trace amounts of alcohol in your mouth could lead to an inaccurate result. Smoking can also affect results. So can products that contain alcohol, like mouthwash and breath fresheners.

Sometimes the machines need to be recalibrated or have batteries replaced. These possibly could affect the reading.

Some tests have software that needs to be updated occasionally and can cause glitches.

Professional breath alcohol tests, like the ones police officers carry, use fuel cell technology. They’re the most accurate. But no breath test is as accurate as a blood or urine test.

How fast your BAC rises and how long it stays that way depend on several things:

Your weight. The heavier you are, the more water is in your body. The more water, the more the alcohol gets diluted.

Your gender. Alcohol doesn’t affect men and women the same. Men have higher levels of a stomach enzyme that helps break down alcohol, so they process it faster. Women typically have less water and more fat. Hormonal changes in women also can affect the BAC.

How many drinks you had, how strong they were, and how fast you drank them. The more you drink each hour, the faster your BAC rises.

How much you ate. A full belly, especially high-protein foods, will slow the processing of alcohol.

What Do the Results Mean?

If a police officer gives you a breath alcohol test and your BAC is over the legal limit of 0.08%, you may be arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

You also may be asked to provide a blood or urine sample for further testing to determine a more accurate BAC.

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  • Qiang Ling
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