Breath alcohol test kits are easy to use and highly accurate, providing the tester with an immediate indication of the presence of alcohol, even to a specific alcohol level. Kits can test for alcohol levels of .02, .04 or .08, with some even testing for high levels depending on the sensitivity and calibration of the individual test. In some cases it is not necessary to prove legal intoxication, which is the .08 test, rather just to confirm the presence of alcohol, which can be easily obtained by the lower calibrated tests. These lower alcohol tests are often used in the workplace where policy prevents the use of alcohol prior to or during the workday or shift. It is also important to realize that for some groups of individuals and within some areas the legal BAC is lower than .08%, making the lower level tests very important.
In most breath alcohol tests, at least those commonly used in homes or in business settings, administering the test is very simple and easy. The subject being tested either blows into a balloon or prepares to blow into a pre-prepared tube. In the case where the subject blows directly into the tube typically there is a small capsule or section within the tube that is squeezed, then the subject breathes into the tube itself. The crystals within the tube will change color based on the presence of alcohol. In the balloon type tests the balloon is placed around the end of the tube and then squeezed to force the air up through the crystals in the tube. Often the balloon test is used to ensure the correct volume of air is being exhaled into the tube, leading to more accurate reading.
Most breath alcohol tests can be read immediately within one to two minutes after the test subject has blown into the tube. There are no risks involved in taking the test and they are not invasive, making them simple and virtually impossible to tamper with or attempt to falsify. It is important that individuals taking the breath alcohol test have not had a drink within 15 minutes and have also not smoked a cigarette within that same time period. Individuals should also be able to take a deep breath in and exhale into the tube, which may be difficult if the individual has some type of respiratory problem. Typically this is rare and most individuals will have no difficulty in providing the required volume of air through the tube.
Although breath alcohol test kits are often used in the workplace or on the job, there are also important considerations for parents and others working with young adults or with individuals in recovery. These tests can be given to show individuals how much one or two drinks can affect blood alcohol levels, which may help people more accurately assess if they should drive. If used in these ways the breath alcohol test kits should be explained to the individuals but also it is important to stress that individual reactions to alcohol may vary and some people are going to show signs of intoxication well before the legal BAC level is reached.