Personal Breathalyzer

This is a strange story to write as not only a craft beer consumer but also a craft beer professional. It was pitched to multiple places, only for them to reject it because they “didn’t exactly want to bring attention to that.”

But, I think it’s an important thing to talk about: drunk driving.

Part of my job is to have a beer or two and then call it a night. It’s called account support, and it’s a big part of establishing a relationship with the people who buy beer. But, with beers that are averaging 6 percent (with many delicious ones hitting the 8% range), the possibility of one of these monsters sneaking up to you is higher than not. Sitting at a bar with your head in a teacup spin, realizing those two imperials did more work than you thought is a bad feeling.

Especially when your judgment is impaired. Because right now, with the assumption that you’re not drunk, you’re thinking “No sir, I know that I shouldn’t drive when I’m drunk.” But after those two imperials, it’s starting to look more attractive than getting a cab or, god forbid, walking.

So, I decided to take preemptive action against myself. Considering I was working and immersed in the beer industry, I knew that the temptation would catch up to me one day. And, on that day, if I were caught behind the wheel, my career and passion would be gone. A DUII is something that is very difficult to come back from.

Alcomate Prestige
Alcomate Prestige

I was contacted by a public relations representative hired to promote a line of breathalyzers that were professional grade. I had been doing my research at this point, and many of the commercial options were receiving reviews of inaccuracy or bad craftsmanship. They were the cheaper options, but in this case, the difference between .07 and .08 could mean handcuffs.

I was intrigued by the different options being pitched — models range from $59.95 to $249.95 — but there was no way I was about to drop more than $130 on a breathalyzer, no matter how badly I wanted to stay safe. So, I took the middle option, Alcomate Prestige, for a test drive.

I’ve now had the unit for a couple of months, with consistent travel and nights with my car and alcohol. I’ve been able to make it a habit to, no matter my state, step into my car and blow into the (quite embarrassing) contraption to see if I’m okay to drive.

I say embarrassing because I don’t want anyone else to know that I may have consumed too much and I needed to be sure. Breathalyzers have a stigma around them now a days — assuming that you don’t know quite where you are can be an embarrassing admission, but a DUII is much worse. It didn’t take too long to get over it, and encourage my friends to invest in something like it.

There have been times in the past couple months where I thought I was totally fine, only to blow a 1.2. And, on the flip side, there have been times where I thought I could have had a beer to many, and I blew under. It really is a mental game, and lack of judgement comes in with fury.

So, with my personal experience, I highly recommend the Alcomate Prestige. Here’s what you’re getting for the price point:

An extremely accurate Breathalyzer, that comes with a sensor replacement (most breathalyzers need to be sent in for recalibration), with a pouch and replaceable mouth pieces. The sensors need to be replaced after every 200 uses or after a year … whichever comes first. I’ve been very impressed with the quality of the product, and I feel like it is professional quality based on appearance, price point, and consistency. The worst thing I can imagine is blowing a .07 on your personal Breathalyzer, only to have the cops get you for a 1.3.

The only downsides at this point are:

1) Pricepoint — although $130 is worth it, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

2) Wait time — the warming up time for the unit can be quick, but without air flow to get it revved up, can be very slow. When you’re a little tipsy, everything is a little slow anyway and it can be frustrating.

3) Time between alcohol and blowing — 20 minutes between taking your last drink and blowing into the Breathalyzer (so that you’re not spitting alcohol straight onto the sensor) is another thing that seems like an eternity. What I’ve found as a solution is after people start taking about moving to the next bar, order a water and start a timer on your phone or watch. It helps set the pace and, if nothing else, get some water down.

4) Keeping it from becoming a toy — I’ve had a couple of friends see me blowing into the unit, only to try and take it from me to “see how drunk they are.” If they spit a bunch of alcohol onto the sensor, then that’s game over for your test until the alcohol evaporates (from how I understand it).

The bottom line is this is a professional unit and you’re going to pay like it is one. But, if you’re trying to keep your record clean, and trying to keep your job and license, you’ll see the value in putting some money in for a top-of-the-line product. The drawbacks are small and manageable, and the upside is having a consistent product that wont fail you when you need it most.

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2 comments

  1. Hi Branden! Great post– and I applaud you for being a stand-up guy in wanting to not drive while impaired. That being said, and as a career firefighter with a brother who is a career Highway Patrol sergeant, I feel the need to add a few caveats even though I’m admittedly no expert. First and foremost, you can be impaired (and get arrested for driving) while still being under the legal limit of .08. Don’t assume that if you are weaving and get pulled over (or, God forbid, cause a wreck) then blow a .06, a cop will let you off. The legalities may be different but the result could be the same. Also, it takes a while for BA levels to stabilize, and while at 20 minutes after your last beer you might be a .06, you could be well over .08 an hour later– this is especially true if you drink a few beers very quickly. The bottom line is to always err on the side of caution. If you feel you’ve had too many to drive, don’t rely on the machine to tell you it’s ok– instead, always have a back-up plan (such as a wife or friends who are not drinking) to drive you home. Or take a cab. Or anything else, except getting behind the wheel. Once again, kudos for bravery in tackling this subject, and shame on the people who “didn’t want to call attention” to the problem of how to get safely (and legally) home after having a few.

  2. Thank you for your input, John, and I 100% agree. I think going forward, especially in an industry that prides itself on being a group of “responsible drinkers,” I think the conversation should be started. You’re right — ultimately it’s about how you feel given how much you drank, how fast, how much you weigh, how much food/water you’ve had.

    For me, I err on the side of caution and encourage others to do the same — take a cab (or call alcohol-intolerant wife… :D). It’s much cheaper than the possibility of serious damage caused by buzzed and drunk driving.

    Thanks again for chiming in!

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