HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - For a little under $25, the BACtrack breath alcohol detector will tell you how much alcohol is in your blood in seconds. It's a keychain that comes with one AAA battery, a user guide and 3 mouthpieces.
Using the flip-up mouthpiece, you blow into the device for five seconds and out comes the answer. We took two participants, Jerry, who considers himself a mild social drinker, and Tim, a heavy drinker, and put the device to the test.
Both drinkers said they have no idea what their blood alcohol level typically is after a night out drinking - they simply go by feeling.
"Normally I'll have three drinks over the whole night, that way at the end of the night you know it's been four or five hours, so I should be ok," said Jerry Sandwick.
Jerry is 5-foot-9-inches tall and weighs around 150 pounds. He he blew a .06 percent Blood-Alcohol-Content (BAC) after two shots and a mixed drink, while Tim who, is 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds blew higher; a .11 after a beer and two shots.
But fifteen minutes later, Jerry's BAC increased to .15 while Tim's stayed at .11.
Both were over the legal limit to drive at .08 BAC. For accuracy, the product has strict guidelines on how to use it. The directions say don't test your levels prior to 20 minutes after drinking, so that the sensor doesn't read alcohol on your saliva, and you also need to get the device calibrated periodically.
But the keychain breathalyzer is not the same quality used by law enforcement. It uses microcheck sensor technology, which the company says isn't as consistent as their mobile phone breathalyzer device.
"The mobile device uses our extend fuel cell sense technology so that type of technology, the alcohol fuel cell tech, that's what's in law enforcement alcohol screening devices," said Keith Nothacker, the CEO and founder of BACtrack
The company says it's been independently tested by a number of different groups, and was top-rated by Car and Driver magazine.
Whether it's something you would purchase, you can't deny, the product at least gives users important information to make a decision that could save their life.
"It's something that we're talking about BAC, if people are testing themselves, we think that's a fantastic thing," Nothacker said.
Meanwhile, local law enforcement agencies aren't impressed.
"I think these products go totally against what the CAST coalition stands for in the first place, and that is if you're going to drink alcohol, don't drive," said Sgt. Jeff Benton with the Horry County Sheriff's Office.
Benton knows first-hand about the dangers of drinking and driving in Horry County.
"I can tell you that in 2013, SC highway patrol just in Horry County arrested 1,038 folks for driving under the influence and that number this year they are reporting 1020 arrests up until this week," said Benton.
Sgt. Jeff Benton believes purchasing the device is a slippery slope. "It's almost giving you permission to have a few drinks," he said.
In fact, in South Carolina, you can actually get a DUI with a blood alcohol level lower than .08. If convicted, you'll face stiff fines, could get your license revoked, could face jail time, and in the worst-case scenario, you could end up taking a life.
"It's so easy to get somebody to take you home, to pay for a taxi, and these companies are saying hey, use our device and you can drink right on up to the legal limit," Benton said.
The CEO of BACtrack says the company wants people to make sure they are at zero before they get behind the wheel, and that the product is a great way for people to learn about how alcohol affects their body.