Police, drinkers wary of portable breathalyzer test now in Piedmont stores

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- New products are hitting store shelves in North Carolina that allow you to take your own breathalyzer in case you’re not sure if you’ve had too much to drink, but police and potential users aren’t sold.

FOX8 found the Breathalyzer distributed by Safe&Sound at a Sheetz store in Burlington. It was being sold for about $5.

The product is used by blowing into a bag then attaching it to a vial filled with yellow crystals. Squeezing the bag and allowing the air to pass through the vial gives you the reading. If the crystals change from yellow to green and those green crystals pass a line on the vial the product instructions encourage you to find another driver or another way home.

Police said they like the idea but felt the instructions may be a little hard to follow for someone who has been drinking.

“I wish that was a little more clear but if you look at the colors in there it doesn't look like it changes much, which means you can drive,” said Senior Officer Ted Tepedino, with the Greensboro Police Department, who was intrigued by the device and tried it out.

“It’s good to have a test like this to kind of determine if you've been driving too much or not,” said Tepedino. “I think one of the things you need to think about: if you feel like you've been drinking too much you've probably drank too much to drive even if you're not over the limit.”

Tepedino said because the device doesn’t give you an accurate reading of the alcohol in your system it’s best to use caution because drunk driving can be deadly.

“It shouldn't be really a balance of how close can I get to the limit to drive,” said Tepedino. “If you're buzzed at all you really don't need to drive.”

Another concern, Tepedino said the over-the-counter alcohol test doesn’t tell you if your blood alcohol level has peaked.

Drinkers also seem hesitant to trust the results.

“I wouldn't personally, but I could see some people who might,” said Devon Harvey. “There's definitely people out there who may.”

That would be a poor decision according to Andrew Newman, a lawyer who focuses on DWI cases for the Law Offices J. Scott Smith.

“It’s hard for me to believe that something like this is calibrated and can be kept up to the quality of one of the larger machines police use downtown to give you a truly accurate result,” said Newman.