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We're taking a break from our normal wine posts to bring you a review of what might be one of the most overlooked wine accessories on the planet -- the personal breathalyzer. Today we've got a mobile version from BACtrack, an item we've had a chance to play with over the last few weeks and enthusiastically recommend to our readers.
The model that we tested, the BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer (sample submitted for review), connects via bluetooth to your smartphone (both android and iphone). Here's what you get in the box:
A few of the features include:
- Professional, police-grade sensor.
- Manufactured by BACtrack, the most-trusted brand of breathalyzers with over 13 years of experience.
- Extremely small and light, weighing only 1.75 oz and measuring just 1.75 x 2.75 x 0.63 inches.
- 1 year warranty.
- Rechargeable battery via usb.
- 3 optional mouthpieces (for example if you want to share the device with friends).
- The android and iphone apps allow you to log where you were and what you were drinking. It estimates how long it will take you to return to 0% BAC (which is a lot longer than you think). It also tells you how motor skills, coordination, and thinking are commonly impaired at your BAC level. You can even share results with friends.
- A list price of $149.99 but it can be found for much less than that, particularly at Amazon.
- Other models start as low as $29.99
Before we get to our experience with the unit let's take a quick look at how your body metabolizes alcohol, how that affects your BAC, and what that means in terms of today's DUI laws.
First, it takes over 20 minutes for the vast majority of the alcohol you consume to enter the small intestine, liver and pancreas where it is metabolized and absorbed into the bloodstream. It remains in the bloodstream until the body expels it.Despite what you might have heard the rate at which alcohol is metabolized does not vary based on a person's size, weight or gender.The practical effects of the alcohol will vary as smaller people and women will generally "feel" it more but the BAC level is not affected. This makes it very difficult for a person to judge if they are truly impaired, much less where they are in regards to the legal limit.
In addition, a person does not need to be at a .08% BAC in order to be convicted of a DUI. The laws in most states simply state that a person must be noticeably impaired. They then add that a BAC of .08% automatically presumes impairment, so basically if you're at .08 it's open and shut -- even if you are not obviously impaired. That's not to say a person well below .08% cannot be convicted, there are many cases where you can. If you blow a .07% for example, the prosecutor can argue that you were at .08% previously. There are also many zero tolerance situations in most states, for example if kids are in the car. In addition, if you are obviously impaired, even at a BAC of .01%, you are likely going to get charged with a DUI or in some states the slightly lesser offense of OUI (Operating Under the Influence).
I tested the BACtrack by taking a reading before any alcohol consumption. It came out at 0% as it should. I then began with a glass of moderately low alcohol (12%) white wine. After an hour of drinking my reading came back at a pretty low level of .015%. While feeling just a bit of a buzz at this point, I could have easily stopped at that glass and felt pretty confident driving within an hour, which coincidentally was pretty close to the predicted time to get back to zero BAC.
What was a bit shocking to me is what happened from that point on. I poured myself a generous glass of red wine which clocked in at about 14% alcohol. Because of what we explained earlier about the time for alcohol to be metabolized into your bloodstream there's quite a delayed reaction. This likely meant that when I ended that first glass of white wine my BAC was still going up for a good bit after that point as the alcohol worked it's way through my system. Adding another glass of wine on top of that really compounded things and shot my BAC up. At the time of my second reading, about an hour and a half later, my BAC skyrocketed to .063% -- despite my body having an hour and half to burn some of that alcohol off.
One of the most surprising things at this point was just how impaired I felt at a BAC of around .06% -- there's no way I would have felt safe driving at that time even though I was well under .08%. The long amount of time to get back to 0% also shocked me -- over 4 hours! If you were out at a restaurant or party would you really hang around for 4 hours without drinking anything else? This is where theBACtrack is probably the most valuable -- letting you know exactly where your impairment level is at and just how long it will take for you to get back to normal so that you can make alternative transportation arrangements. This can not only save the time, money and stress of a DUI conviction, but it could possibly save your or someone else's life. $120 seems like a pretty good investment given that.
In our opinion the BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer (or any other BACtrack model for that matter) is a must-have for wine lovers.
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