How Does a Car Breathalyzer Work Once Installed?

Accidents due to drunk driving, famously known as driving under the influence (DUI), have been on the rise. Even with many countries striving to reduce these incidents by introducing strict laws, the current rate of deaths is still alarming. Perhaps the most unfortunate part of this topic is the fact that these kinds of car crashes are entirely preventable.

Engineers in the motor industry have played their part by using technological advancements to try and reduce the number of DUI cases. A car breathalyzer has quickly become a very effective tool in this project. Based on how the ignition interlock device operates, there is no doubt that this technology can reduce the chances of such accidents by a significant percentage.

Nonetheless, driving with intoxication (DWI) remains one of the main causes of road accidents. Unfortunately, you could also find yourself on the wrong side of the law at some point. As such, it’s always important that you hire a DWI attorney to represent you in court. Click here to learn more.

So, how exactly does a breathalyzer work? Read on to find out!

What Does A Car Breathalyzer Entail?

Before going into much detail on its operation, it’s important that you understand some of the main parts that make up a car breathalyzer. Also known as a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) or ignition interlock device (IID), this gadget has a sensor that is designed to “lock” the ignition system of your vehicle if a certain threshold is achieved (more on this later). Due to its effectiveness, IID is quickly becoming one of the must-have car gadgets in this day and era.

Of course, the designs may vary depending on your country’s legal requirements, but the general operation is the same. The next section explains all the important steps involved in the functioning of this rapidly growing technology.

1. Blowing into the Device

It all starts with you blowing air from your mouth towards the device. Keep in mind that when you drink alcohol, it doesn’t get broken down completely in your body. Instead, it ends up in your bloodstream as ethyl alcohol. Its high volatility means it can easily evaporate even with your body temperature. This vapor gets into the alveoli as the blood flows around the lungs, which then makes its way out of the body in the form of your breath.

So, with enough concentration of alcohol in your alveoli, the breathalyzer will be able to measure how much you’ve taken with a fair level of accuracy. Of course, the laws might differ, but most jurisdictions consider as blood-concentration of 0.08% or more as intoxication. In fact, a lot of ignition interlock devices you’ll find use this value as their threshold.

2. The Measuring Mechanism

Ever since the first breathalyzer went into operation in the 1950s, there’s been a lot of developments to make the gadget even more accurate. The modern system is made largely based on an advanced fuel cell, a technology designed to generate electricity through a chemical reaction. Each cell has two platinum electrodes with an electrolyte between them.

As you breath, the alcohol reacts with one of the platinum electrodes and oxidizes it which leads to the flow of electric current. It flows through a wire to an ammeter – a circuit measuring the electric current. The result is fed to a microprocessor, which then converts it to a corresponding value of alcohol concentration.

If you take in too much alcohol, then the reaction in the fuel cell will produce more electric current. Consequently, you’ll have more alcohol concentration shown as the result on your gadget.

3. Analysis

The final step will be to check whether the value shown on the monitor is above the accepted level. As earlier stated, the threshold may vary with brands and the laws governing whichever state you live in. In case the result exceeds this limit, then the ignition system is locked and you won’t be able to start your car.

Even after you’ve started driving, keep in mind that the device will constantly demand that you measure your breath to ensure that you’re still in the right state. What happens if you test registers above the threshold while already operating the vehicle? The breathalyzer will cause the car to blink lights and honk horns repeatedly until you pull off the road. Some are set to send a signal to the authorities if you fail to abide by the requirements.

Last Words

Breathalyzers have become popular in cars, and are constantly becoming one of the major requirements in modern vehicles. This device uses your breath to measure your level of intoxication and uses the result to determine whether you’re fit to drive. It’s imperative that you strictly follow the rules. At the end of the day, it will not matter how much punishment you serve if lives are lost because of ignorance and recklessness.