I\u2019d normally start by saying that only a fool expects a consumer-based electronic device to give them accurate information about their health: that\u2019s what having a checkup at the doctor is all about. But the effects of drinking alcohol are so insidious -- and so ingrained into our culture -- that few really realize how dangerous a couple of drinks at the wrong time or in the wrong situation can be. So yeah, I\u2019m all in favor of those portable Breathalyzer units, provided they actually worked. The trouble has been that the ones on the market have been sold more for their \u201cnovelty\u201d effect. But while getting a bit tipsy might be OK at home, getting behind the wheel in an impaired state isn\u2019t a joke. So having a quantifiable number staring back at you is a lot better than \u201cguestimating\u201d how you\u2019re feeling.\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s why I feel good about using the BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer. Granted it\u2019s not keychain-sized small and requires a Bluetooth connection to an iPhone to function, but having a police-grade fuel cell sensor inside gives me confidence: of the various forms of sensors placed in these type of devices, those with fuel cells are used by professionals who expect accurate and consistent readings (these type of breathalyzers are also resistant to false positives). And there\u2019s nothing involved or hard about getting a reading since all you\u2019re doing is blowing into the device.\r\n\r\nThe BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer is about the height of a smartphone, although much wider. It recharges via USB so I plugged it into an AC adapter and let an hour go by. In the meantime I download the free BACtrack app on my iPhone 5.\r\n\r\nI needed to establish a baseline -- what my BAC (blood alcohol content) is without any alcohol in my system. BACtrack says you should wait at least 15 minutes, so I gave it a 1\/2\u00a0 hour after breakfast. I turned the BACKtrack on and paired it to my iPhone\u2019s Bluetooth from the app\u2019s initial screen -- which is a great convenience, although I had to do it each time. I clicked on \u201cTake a Reading\u201d and waited as an onscreen clock counted down the startup process.\u00a0 When I was given the go-ahead, I took a deep breath and blew forcefully into the breathalyzer (remind me to use one of the included mouthpieces next time as they\u2019re easier to clean off afterwards than the hole in the device) and kept doing it while a series of bars onscreen illuminated from bottom to top. The app stopped when they were all lit up. A few seconds then went by and the app gave me the results numerically as well as in plain English. It said that I was sober, which came as no surprise since it wasn\u2019t brunch at the Hilton.\r\n\r\nSo I turned the breathalyzer off and left it in the kitchen until dinnertime, during which I consumed a bottle of beer. After the meal was over I used it again and saw that, while the amount of alcohol in me wasn\u2019t massive by any means, the single bottle had been enough to be able to affect my behavior. I tried using my now being slightly impaired as an excuse to not do the dishes -- no luck.\r\n\r\nBut the real test was when I went to a microbrew bar with friends to celebrate my birthday: read that as having them buy me beers. Plural. I took a reading after having consumed three beers and, no surprise, the reading showed that I wasn\u2019t ready to go on the high-wire. I was also able to take a picture in app of one of the now-empty beer bottles to commemorate its contribution to my insides. The app also lets you share the results of your testing in a private message or to the public at large via twitter or Facebook -- doubtful I\u2019d be doing any of that. But it was interesting to see the satellite view that displays other user\u2019s results worldwide, as was using the graphing function that tracked my alcohol consumption over time. And for those who drink regularly and care, the app also gives you an estimate of how long before your BAC levels return to normal. In my case it wasn\u2019t happening before I left the bar, but since I wasn\u2019t the designated driver, no big deal. But if I had been drinking alone, getting behind the wheel would have been a really, really bad idea as California\u2019s legal definition of DUI impairment is 0.08% BAC. If I had been stopped while driving, I might have kissed my license goodbye.\r\n\r\nBottom line: Alcohol affects your judgement, so having the cold hard facts of your BAC presented by a device you can\u2019t laugh off as a \u201cnovelty\u201d can help you make the right decisions about how competent you are. Because you\u2019re using the BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer, that decision could be as small as knowing you\u2019re not as funny as you think so you keep that stupid, dumb joke bottled up, or as major as avoiding driving which could result in an accident where someone gets hurt or worse. The BACtrack is just a tool and not your mommy, but it\u2019s an accurate tool that you can\u2019t ignore. Oh and good luck using it to try and get out of a speeding ticket even if you\u2019re sober.