State of Intoxication: What does 0.08 feel like?

Posted on January 3, 2014 

Five Anchorage people, who were celebrating New Year's Eve 2013-14 in downtown Anchorage, take a guess at their blood alcohol content. We test it with a store-bought device. None said they intended to drive that night. (Video by Marc Lester and Kyle Hopkins / Anchorage Daily News)


From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

Can you tell when you’re too drunk to legally drive? Alaska law says a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher means you're too soused to get behind the wheel, but we wondered just how precise partygoers are when it comes to guessing their limits.  

After buying what seemed like the last pocket Breathalyzer in Anchorage, photographer Marc Lester and I headed downtown on New Year's Eve to find out. Many said they don't take any chances.

“If I drink, I’m not driving. Plain and simple. That way I have no question at all whether or not I’m too drunk to drive,” said 24-year-old Galletana Woodson, who was trying to flag down a cab outside the Hotel Captain Cook. “I have a little girl I have to live for and I don’t want anyone else getting hurt.”

Twenty-somethings mobbed Fourth Avenue shortly after midnight. Shivering in skirts in the winding line outside the Avenue Bar and competing for a parade of taxis at The Gaslight. Almost everyone we talked to was game to test their B.A.C. 

In the video above, five Anchorage revelers take a guess at their alcohol level and talk about why they decided not to drive. By the end of the night we wondered just how accurate these over-the-counter devices really are. 

Police are constantly recalibrating even the professional-grade alcohol sensors used at the city jail, said department spokeswoman Jennifer Castro. “(We) don’t know how that would work with a piece of equipment that you buy at a gas station.”

The gadget we bought -- a BACTrack S35 -- cost $58.99 at Walgreens but felt like it tumbled out of a Crackerjack box. Competing brands and styles sell for anywhere from $29 to $250 or more.

The manufacturer promises “unheard of accuracy at this price point,” but read the fine print in the instruction manual and it’s clear the devices aren't meant to stand up in court.

Don’t bet your freedom or your life on a low reading, in other words. 

The L.A. Times recently test drove an even lower-cost version of the same device. Or watch CNET’s roundup here.


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