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Instruments to measure breath alcohol concentration: Reliability of the BACtrack S80 Pro and the Intoxilyzer 5000

Authors Angelica Hagsand
Nadja Schreiber Compo
Jacqueline Evans
Amelia Mindthoff
Published in Poster presented at the Swedish Society for Alcohol- and Drug research (SAD) conference (Gothenburg, Sweden).
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords alcohol, breath, reliability, instruments
Subject categories Other Engineering and Technologies, Law and Society, Chemical Process Engineering


Introduction: Police often use handheld breathalyzers to make preliminary estimations of victims and suspect’s intoxication level. These initial measurements are often not valid as evidence in court. However, it is not always feasible for the officers to take the person to the police station and use a benchtop instrument for assessment. Aim: This study examined the reliability between two handheld BACtrack S80 Pro Breathalyzers and the benchtop instrument Intoxilyzer 5000. Method: The Intoxilyzer 5000 was calibrated every day and is on the US Department of Transportation’s Conforming Products List of Evidential Breath Alcohol Measurement Devices. In contrast, BACtrack S80 Pro was not calibrated each day given that the manufacturer does not recommend this. Four different BAC readings were taken from 60 intoxicated participants in a laboratory study (i.e., with two BACtrack S80’s and twice using the Intoxilyzer 5000). This 4-reading sequence was repeated multiple times over several hours. Results: For most of the measurement points, the two readings from the Intoxilyzer 5000 did not significantly differ from each other, but did often differ from the BACtrack S80 devices. The reliability between the two BACtrack S80 was low. Conclusion: Given that the Intoxilyzer 5000 was calibrated each day, we can assume that the validity of this instrument is high and that the measured breath alcohol concentration would correspond well with the participants’ actual blood alcohol concentration, better than the handheld ones would. This study also concludes that the Intoxilyzer 5000 demonstrated a higher level of reliability compared to the BACtrack S80.

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