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Alcohol breathalyzers

Alcohol breathalysers

Professional Breathalyzers - Law Enforcement
Personal Breathalyzers - Home Use

Alcohol breathalyzers are used by police officers throughout the world to enforce drunk driving laws. The idea of developing a practical instrument for breath testing purposes came in 1931 from one Professor Rolla N. Harger at the Medical School of Indiana University. During the 1930's research into breath testing was gathering momentum due to the fact and realization that that excessive drinking was a major cause of road traffic accidents. The end of the prohibition of alcohol in in the USA in 1933 had no doubt contributed to this growing concern.

They were first used by law enforcement in the USA (where the first breathalyzers were invented) in the 1930's. They were introduced in the UK in 1967. In the USA breathalyzers are used to:

  • Carry out PAS's (preliminary alcohol screening )

  • Carry out EBT's (evidential breath tests)

Preliminary Alcohol Screening

Preliminary alcohol screening allows police officers to make a decision based on the result of a breath test as to whether or not a driver suspected of drunk driving - DUI is arrested. The screening test is not intended to give a precise measure of a suspects alcohol levels, it is used to indicate whether the level is likely to exceed the prescribed legal limit.

In MOST states PAS (preliminary alcohol screening) is optional and it is not an offence to refuse to take this test.

Preliminary alcohol screening machines are approximately the size (slightly bigger) of old fashioned mobile telephones. The mouthpieces are disposable and the whole process takes about a minute before the breathalyser produces a result.


If a driver is arrested for suspected drunk driving he will then be required to take a chemical test, the test can consist of providing a blood sample, a urine sample or a breath sample on an evidential breath testing machine. Refusing to take a chemical test is a crime and carries punishments similar or greater than those of being convicted of drunk driving.

Breath Testing Outside of the Law

Breathalyzers are not just used by police officers. They are used by many professionals such as probation officers, correction officers, prison officers, doctors and nurses. Employers also use breathalyzers to test their employee's alcohol levels.

Breathalyzers in the workplace are becoming increasingly common, especially in jobs where there is risk involved and safety is paramount.

Breathalyzers are becoming increasingly common in the consumer market too. A home breathalyser can allow parents to monitor their children's alcohol intake for instance, many people also use or would like to use a personal breathalyser to test their own alcohol levels to ensure they are below the legal limit and can drive safely.

Breathalyzers can be used in the prevention of drinking and driving in more ways than one. Ignition interlock devices use a breathalyzer to test if a motorist is over the legal limit. If he is over the legal limit, the car will not start!

Since the breathalyser was introduced the number of people convicted of drunk driving has run into the millions.

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