Alcohol Level Test: What It Is, How To Conduct, and Legal Limits
07 November, 2023
An alcohol level test is a procedure to measure the concentration of alcohol in the body. It is commonly done to determine if someone has recently consumed alcohol. There are several methods to conduct the test. This includes urine tests, blood tests, and breath tests. In New Zealand, the legal limits for alcohol tests range from zero to 0.05% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The threshold varies depending on the age and license type.
Alcohol consumption is a common social activity. However, heavy drinking can have serious consequences. Moreover, driving under the influence (DUI) is a significant concern, as it puts not only the life of the driver at risk but also the lives of others. To prevent accidents and legal issues, law enforcement or consumers usually determine the blood alcohol level. This article will present what the test is about, how to conduct it, and the legal BAC limits.
What is an Alcohol Level Test
The alcohol level test measures the amount of alcohol present in the bloodstream. It is common to identify if someone has heavy alcohol consumption and the effects of alcohol. Accordingly, the purpose of the breath alcohol testing equipment is to assess impairment and determine if someone is under the influence of alcohol. This can be important in roadside screening, workplace testing, and medical setting.
In conducting the ethanol testing, there are several methods available. This includes alcohol urine testing, alcohol blood testing, and breath testing. The urine tests involve analysing the urine sample of a person to detect the presence and levels of alcohol. Such an approach is popular due to its low cost and simplicity.
Blood tests are one of the most accurate methods. This approach directly measures blood alcohol levels in the bloodstream. It requires drawing a blood sample, which is sent to a laboratory for analysis. Hence, it is not common as it requires the administration of a health professional. Meanwhile, breath alcohol testing devices are non-invasive, convenient, and deliver prompt results. This utilises the sample of breath to determine BAC.
Factors that Affect the BAC Levels
The following are the factors that can affect the BAC levels of a person:
- The amounts of alcohol consumption – excessive amounts of alcohol consumption pose a higher BAC level.
- Body weight and composition – individuals with higher body weight tend to have lower BAC levels than those with lower body weight.
- Metabolism rate – individuals with a faster metabolism tend to have lower BAC levels as their body breaks down alcohol more quickly.
- Gender – women generally have a higher BAC level than men after consuming the same amount of alcohol due to differences in metabolism and body composition.
How to Conduct an Alcohol Level Test
To conduct an alcohol level test, there are specific steps to follow depending on the type of method. For the alcohol urine testing, it begins with the collection of urine samples. People can use testing kits or send the specimen to a laboratory. Follow the instructions provided or consult a healthcare professional to analyse the urine specimen properly.
For the alcohol blood tests, a medical professional will prepare the necessary equipment, including gloves, syringes, and blood collection tubes. Then, the practitioner will draw blood from the vein, usually in the arms. The specimen will be put in storage and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Once the test is complete, the practitioner will interpret it based on specific requirements.
On the other hand, the breath alcohol device is easy to operate. In conducting the breath test, ensure that the breathalyser is recalibrated and functioning correctly. The candidate will blow into the mouthpiece according to specific duration and force. As such, the unit will analyse the breath sample and provide a digital reading of the BAC level.
Why Use a Breathalyser
Using a breathalyser is a reliable and convenient method for measuring BAC compared to other methods. Firstly, a breathalyser is a portable device. This makes them suitable for various settings such as law enforcement, workplaces, and personal use. Secondly, it provides immediate results, allowing individuals to quickly determine if a person is under the legal limit of alcohol for driving.
The other methods, such as blood tests or urine tests, require additional time and resources to collect and analyse samples. Additionally, breathalyser devices are non-invasive and painless. This makes them preferable to both individuals and professionals for their accuracy and convenience.
Legal BAC Limits for Alcohol Level Tests
In New Zealand, the legal BAC limits for alcohol level tests vary depending on the type of driver or vehicle. For drivers who hold a full license, such as a non-provisional license, the legal BAC limit is 0.05%. This means that the alcohol concentration in the blood must not exceed 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 Milliliters (mL) of blood. For drivers with learner permits or provisional licenses, the legal BAC limit is lower at 0.00%.
Such an approach means the driver must have no alcohol in the system while driving. Accordingly, some drivers are subjected to a stricter BAC limit. This includes professional drivers, as well as drivers of heavy commercial vehicles. The legal limit for these drivers is also set at 0.00%.
The general guideline that high-risk workplaces adhere to is a zero BAC limit. This means that employees must be completely sober when tested through alcohol testing at work. The process ensures that the worker is suitable for doing the job. Hence, there are consequences for exceeding the alcohol policy.
Penalties and Charges of Driving with Unlawful BAC Levels
Driving with unlawful BAC levels in New Zealand can lead to severe penalties and charges. For a first offence, the penalties may include fines of up to NZD 4,500. This can also include disqualification from driving for some time, mandatory attendance to alcohol education, and alcohol treatment programs. Imprisonment is also possible for a term not exceeding three months.
For subsequent offences, the penalties become more severe. Repeat offenders may face higher fines, longer disqualification periods, and an increased likelihood of imprisonment. It is important to note that the authorities have the power to conduct random testing.
Alcohol level test is an effective approach to measure the BAC level in the system of a person. This method can determine if a person is in a state of intoxication or impairment. Thus, it eliminates or reduces the risks of accidents, injuries, or harm to other people. In conducting a test that determines the BAC, individuals can use a urine analysis, blood testing, or breath sample. Each type has advantages that can suit specific needs.
The legal BAC limit varies depending on cases and situations. For non-provisional license holders, the limit is 0.05%, for drivers with provisional licenses and professional drivers, the limit is 0.00%. Accordingly, some workplaces also incorporate a zero-tolerance alcohol approach. Nevertheless, it is vital to understand the BAC limits to avoid offences. Exceeding the limit can lead to fines, penalties, disqualification, or even imprisonment. For many people, using a personal breathalyser is the most convenient in BAC monitoring.