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What is the Alcotest®?

By Lee Johnson
Updated: May 17, 2024

Alcotest® units are devices that test the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath, usually used to determine whether or not the subject has consumed too much alcohol to drive safely. The Alcotest® is made by Drager, a family company based in Germany. There are many different Alcotest® units, including the 6810, the 7110 and the 7510, and these all feature technology designed to accurately determine the amount of alcohol on a subject’s breath. The 6810 and 7510 are hand-held unit, and the 7110 is a larger, more accurate unit.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, requires breath alcohol tests to be performed following any motor accident that is caused by poor performance, and also allows random tests or tests based on suspicion. The level of alcohol present on a person’s breath is measured, anything over 0.04 percent being considered unsafe for driving. Generally, the test-taker will have to blow into a device designed to test the level of alcohol on the breath.

The 6810 and 7510 models are both hand-held units, with an ergonomic design that enables them to be operated by both right-handed and left-handed people. These units have one function, and as such only require three buttons, an “up,” “down” and “OK” button. They feature a removable tube, which protrudes horizontally from the top of the device. After the reading has been taken, the tube can be replaced to ensure hygienic safety. There is also a stopper on these devices, to prevent the subject’s mouth from coming into contact with the tester’s hand.

The units do not require a large amount of breath in order to gain a reading, which can help with subjects with lower respiratory volume, such as smokers. Different hand-held Alcotest® units have different features. The 6810, for example, features a test memory, so that the user can record up to 250 test results. The 7510 features a global positioning system (GPS) module so that users can pinpoint the location of all of the tests that they perform.

The Alcotest® 7110 unit, although larger than its hand-held counterparts, is the only breath tester available that has been approved by a Supreme Court decision. It features both infrared and electrochemical sensors, giving users two ways to test for alcohol. The infrared sensor is unaffected by any other substance on the subject’s breath that could skew the test results, and the electrochemical sensor is unaffected by ambient alcohol vapor. After pressing the “start” button, each step of the testing is either performed automatically or accompanied by thorough instructions displayed on the display screen.

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