Can you trust personal breathalysers?

CHOICE trialled electronic and disposable breathalysers and the results were disturbing.
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05.What's in a standard drink

Standard drink

A standard drink is defined as one containing 10 grams of alcohol. It is a way of measuring the quantity of alcohol and is a guide for staying under the 0.05 limit; For men, it is no more than two standard drinks in the first hour, and one standard drink per subsequent hour. Women should drink no more than one standard drink per hour.

Our trialists' readings

The rate of alcohol absorption also varies with gender, age and weight. In our trial, a man and a woman who both consumed three standard drinks had very different readings. The 49-year-old male trialist who weighed 100kg had a reading of 0.01, while the woman, aged 29 and weighing 54kg, had a reading of 0.04, close to the 0.05 legal limit.

When asked how confident they felt about driving safely and if their BAC was under the legal limit, the woman said she was 100% confident about both. The man, on the other hand, despite registering only 0.01, said he was neither confident of handling a car, nor having a BAC below the limit.

BAC limits by state

The legal limits for each licence class vary between states. In Victoria and Queensland, a zero BAC limit applies to learner, provisional, truck, bus and taxi drivers, while all other drivers must stay under 0.05 BAC.

In NSW, three limits apply:

  • zero for all learner and provisional drivers (even if you’re from interstate or overseas)
  • 0.02 for taxi and bus drivers, as well as heavy and dangerous goods drivers
  • 0.05 for all other full licences

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