That Breathalyzer You Bought Online Won't Save Your License: Study

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
that breathalyzer you bought online wont save your license study

Thanksgiving is past and the coming month promises plenty of opportunities for socially acceptable, clove-scented boozing. Some beverages placed in hand — egg nog, for example — can easily pack enough liquor to make a sailor’s eyes water, while the drinker remains unaware of the serving size.

No problem, you say. You’ve bought a civilian breathalyzer, or perhaps the bar you’re at provides one. Got it all covered. Once that device delivers the green light, bam — it’s motoring time! Any police impaired driving checkpoint you encounter should pass your sober ass with flying colors, right?

So wrong. The majority of breathalyzers tested in a recent study failed miserably.

The study, conducted by our French friends north of New England, found that six out of ten of the most common non-police breathalyzers failed to return accurate results, and discovered flaws with the remaining four.

Consumer publication Protégez-Vous and the CAA-Quebec Foundation (Quebec’s version of AAA) couldn’t recommend any of the 10 models. In vetting the devices, the groups employed toxicologists from the Quebec Public Security Ministry, each armed with an official law enforcement-issued breathalyzer. Official results were then compared with those from off-the-shelf devices at three different levels of impairment (120 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (0.12), 80 mg/100 ml (0.08) and 50 mg/100 ml (0.05).

The Digital Breath Alcohol Tester, sold north and south of the border by Groupon and Tuango, proved very inaccurate. A third of the time, results were off by 30 percent.

Of the four mobile breathalyzers that came close to official results, one was a standout winner: the BACtrack BT-M5, which sends the results to your iPhone or Android device. That model retails for $140 (CAD). Still, it can’t be recommended, as such devices need to be calibrated by the manufacturer before first use, and every year thereafter. That’s a roughly $50 expense each time.

In an embarrassing turn, the single-use breathalyzer sold by the province’s government-controlled liquor retailer was judged to be “useless.” Whoops.

When asked about the pointless piece of kit, Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) spokesperson Linda Bouchard Linda Bouchard “didn’t seem overly concerned.” She claimed that the tool, while useless, promoted awareness about responsible alcohol consumption, providing a perfect example of why spokespeople warrant large salaries.

[Image: KOMUnews/ Flickr ( CC BY 2.0)]

Join the conversation
2 of 51 comments
  • Mikey Mikey on Nov 29, 2016

    Here in Ontario, we have a 2 month old baby clinging to life. Her 22 year old mother was DOA. The drunk in a Mercedes rear ended her Ford Escape. Last night a kid with a restricted , 0 alcohol license tried to make a left turn on a city street. at about 40 MPH. He managed to kill his buddy, and put a 20 year old young lady in intensive care. Over the course of the weekend the OPP laid 104 impaired charges. The GTA Regional police forces laid another 100 or so. They caught a dude doing 187 KPH {100 mph} on the 400 ...$hit faced drunk. Another moron drove around a barricade, set up for the Santa Clause parade, with four empty beer cans in his car. Last weekend was not a holiday weekend, in Canada. So a few idiots figure you can buy a Breathalyzer from Wall Mart, then suck back a few "tall boys" and all will be well ? Well.. i guess if the rest of us are lucky, the cops will nail their sorry butts to the wall. If were not lucky?? Some poor innocent will pay the price.. Personally, i cab it ,if i know i will be drinking. I carry 3 major credit cards, and $50 bucks tucked in the back of my wallet. As much as i care for my car , i will leave it parked anywhere, before i get behind the wheel. I couldn't give a rats a$$ about the legal consequences of an Impaired charge. However, living the rest of my life knowing that i killed ,or maimed an innocent, would be far more than this old boy could deal with

  • DC Bruce DC Bruce on Nov 29, 2016

    This. A common issue here in the States -- if not elsewhere -- is the after office "Holiday Party" where alcohol is served. Some years ago, here in DC, an associate attorney at a major downtown law firm killed a pedestrian walking along the roadside on a suburban Virginia road, where the speed limit is, IIRC, 30 mph. I don't think there is (or was) a sidewalk and there wasn't much of a shoulder where the victim was struck; and it's a two-lane road with a fair amount of traffic. So, that's precisely the kind of situation that an impaired driver would have difficulty handling. Worse, the driver fled the scene of the accident (she claimed she didn't know she had hit anyone!) but was later caught and successfully prosecuted (for more than DUI or hit-and-run). If memory serves, the victim's estate (or relatives) sued not only the driver but also the law firm. My firm never had an after work Holiday Party; we had a Holiday Dinner for everyone -- lawyers and staff. But the alcohol served was not some sweet, alcoholic punch or eggnog. Rather it was your choice of wine with dinner and the amount was rationed to about two glasses per guest.

  • FreedMike Needs a few more HP to really spice things up...
  • Oberkanone Absolute insanity on our public roads! A danger to society. Bravo Dodge!
  • Lou_BC Cool car but 35k USD?
  • Lou_BC I've owned and ridden many litre class sport bikes. Those bikes render anything on 4 wheels boring. This is cool but even if I had the cash, it would be a hard pass.
  • Jeff S Some of us don't care either way we are not into this type of car. Most of these will be stored in garages waiting for their value to go up. As someone above noted this is an old body style which is retro 70s Challenger which after researching it came out in the 2008 MY which means a long run for a model that is in its 16th year. I have always liked these but if I bought one I would not spend this kind of money on one probably get the V-6 version and use it as a family car but then I am not into drag racing or muscle cars. For the type of car it is it has a decent rear seat and not too bad of a trunk. Most of us are not going to spend 100k for any vehicle at least currently so its not something most of us will buy and stick in a garage waiting for its value to increase. I am glad that these editions came out for those who can afford them and it keeps a little more color into what has become a very dull vehicle market but then with age I pick the dull appliance like reliable vehicle because that's what I need. Impressive car but not for me.