The gadget for the responsible driver

The SSD digital alcohol meter should be owned by all drivers, writes Dr Peter Ilves.

I was surprised at how many people were interested to hear that I was testing a digital alcohol meter. It struck me that there was an implication in what they were saying: they were uneasy that they might have been over the legal limit to drive on occasions.

In fact, one of the areas where the SSD Alcometer is marketed is for private use, to prevent drink driving. At the price of the meter, I think it is an affordable vital addition to the pocket of those who drink and drive.

The size of the problem

The statistics and outcomes as a result of drinking and driving are frightening.

It also seems clear that even low levels of blood alcohol are enough to disrupt the abilities of the best drivers among us.

The Alcometer belies its lightweight design in offering a very effective and sturdy piece of kit. It is easy to use and carry with the supplied handle.

It comes in a neat hard case, which is itself contained in a chic black plastic zippered bag. There is a 9v battery supplied and mouthpieces to get started.

With the battery inserted, the unit comes alive and with a press of one button it is ready to use. It then goes through an initiation process and counts down, taking only a matter of seconds.

The 'offender' breathes into the machine until a beep sounds and the software and hardware do their jobs. The LED display exposes the person to reality in no time at all.

Website assistance

If you are unsure of anything, there is a superb website from the makers of the alcometer - SureScreen Diagnostics - where you can find a simple 'how to use it' display (www.alcometer.co.uk).

The accuracy of the machine is high with a 0.01 per cent tolerance. One battery will do 300 tests.

It comes with a car charger, which is very pertinent, and there is a one-year warranty on the product. I am left unsure as to the licensing for its use as a multi-person device in the patient setting, yet, despite this, I would certainly buy it for personal use.

There are some interesting statistics in the UK that show that alcohol consumption has remained steady over the 20 years up to 1999, although of late there is a worrying rise of alcohol misuse and problem drinking in teenagers and, in some areas, more so in girls than boys.

The concurrent increase in smoking, in this age group, will surely lead to an upturn in oral cancers and social pathology, not to mention all the other related disorders. We drink more than the US per capita, but less than the French.

In 2001, the findings of the 'psychiatric morbidity of adults in private households' survey found one person in four drinking hazardously. In Scotland, RTA statistics found that one road accident death in five was due to drink driving.

The SSD Alcometer is therefore a vital addition as a management tool.

- An independent review by Dr Ilves, a GP in south west London
- Equipment supplied by Williams Medical Supplies

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Model: SSD Digital Alcohol Meter Price: £109.67 incl VAT

Special offer for GP Readers see page 76.

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