A personal breathalyser can be a good idea for anyone who wants to be extra certain that they can legally drive. Blowing an alcohol reading in an interlock usually counts as a breach of your program, so you can't just use the device to check whether you're within the limits. That's where a personal breathalyser comes in handy. It's not as accurate as the alcohol interlock installed in the car. That said, it's a hell of a lot better than just making a wild guess about alcohol remaining in your body.
Not all breathalysers are created equal. While you should take every breathalyser reading with a pinch of salt, some are much more accurate than others. Fuel cell breathalyser are the gold standard in alcohol detection technology. This is actually the same method that your installed alcohol interlock uses (although no handheld breath device will be as accurate as your interlock). Unless it is explicitly listed as a fuel cell breathalyser, it is likely to be less reliable and worse at differentiating alcohol from other substances.
Another important way to ensure your personal breathalyser is accurate is to make sure you calibrate it regularly. It might sound like a giant pain, but manufacturers will recommend how often you should send your device in for calibration. Breathalysers become less and less accurate with use, so after a few months of heavy use the readings it gives can be slightly off. It's not just personal devices; even the interlock installed in your vehicle needs to be calibrated every time you come in for service. It's the only way to ensure that readings remain accurate and to avoid false or misleading readings.
Because a personal breathalyser is only as useful as it is trustworthy, at Smart Start we only sell quality fuel-cell breathalysers. To comply with Australian standards we also recommend that you send your device in for calibration every 6 months. Calibrations are done professionally at our headquarters, and the device will be returned to you within a week to keep any inconvenience to a minimum.
But ultimately no handheld breathalyser is going to be more useful than your common sense. If you drink late at night, there's a good chance that you'll still have alcohol in your system the next morning. Even if your personal breathalyser finds your BAC is under 0.02, this is only an indication, and your installed interlock is always going to be more accurate. Finally, if you have zero blood alcohol requirement to drive, before driving you should reflect on whether your BAC is actually at 0, and not just under the detection limit of 0.02.
Personal breathalysers are a great way to keep yourself aware of your limits and how your body is processing alcohol, provided that you use them with good judgement and common sense. An accurate breathalyser becomes a great tool for keeping on track long after you've successfully completed your alcohol interlock program.