The breath test: Key chain breathalyzers tested in the field - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

The breath test: Key chain breathalyzers tested in the field

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Inexpensive, keychain breathalyzers are available online. They claim to accurately measure your blood alcohol level.

CBS News 8 teamed up with San Diego Police in the field to put the devices to the test.

It is 7 p.m. in the Gaslamp Quarter and SDPD is conducting its monthly Know Your Limit public education campaign.

Officers administer free breath tests using professional breathalyzers. People who volunteer to take the breath tests are not arrested because they are not driving.

In California, you are over the legal limit to drive if you blow a .08 or greater on the breathalyzer.

“You could have one drink, for instance a long island ice tea, and that possibly could put you over the legal limit,” said SDPD traffic officer Emilio Ramirez.

The breathalyzers used by SDPD cost about $250 dollars and they are calibrated every month.

CBS News 8 compared the police results with those obtained using three less expensive keychain breathalyzers: the $10 Greenwon tester, the $20 VicTsing device, and a $100 tester made by BACtrack.

Our first volunteer blew a .098 on the calibrated SDPD breathalyzer. Her results were as follows on the consumer devices:

SDPD breathalyzer: .098

Greenwon = .09

VicTsing = .04

BACtrack = .11

“I would be mad if I got pulled over and I breathalyzed myself with one of those cheap ones and it said .04 and then I found out I'm over the drinking limit and I thought I was protecting myself,” the volunteer said after she saw the results.

Our second volunteer was under the legal limit on the police test, blowing a .057 on the professional device. Below are her results from the consumer breath testers:

SDPD breathalyzer: .057

Greenwon = .05

VicTsing = .04

BACtrack = .05

As our testing showed, the higher the blood alcohol levels, the more the results seemed to fluctuate.

Volunteer number three blew .080 on the SDPD tester. Her results on the consumer devices were as follows:

SDPD breathalyzer: .080

Greenwon = .05

VicTsing = .05

BACtrack = .09

Best advice from the officers in the field is to not risk getting a DUI based on the results of a keychain breath tester.

“I would not rely on them. They're too erratic. The reading is all over the board and there's no way to calibrate or check the accuracy of it,” said Officer Ramirez.

The consumer breath testers come with written warnings not to rely on the results to determine whether you are okay to drive a vehicle.

Also, to get more accurate results you have to wait at least 15 minutes after your last drink before conducting a breath test.

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