Use Of Rbt System To Reduce Car Accidents Due To Alcohol Consumption

1413 words - 6 pages

Random Breath Testing (RBT) is a system used in Australia by state and federal policing agencies to measure the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of drivers. To do so, police officers use an apparatus known as a breathalyser, which are able to determine BAC through breath alcohol concentration. If the blood alcohol content of a driver is over the legal limit, they will experience penalties. The usage of breathalysers has become an efficient and reliable form of testing BAC on the roads, without the need for a blood test. RBT has succeeded in making Australians further aware and responsible for their alcohol consumption, but overestimation of their driving abilities and incapability to properly weigh important factors, has made RBT less effective.

Presently, there are three main types of breathalysers available, the Semiconductor Oxide, Fuel Cell, and Spectrophotometer breathalysers (How Does a Breath Analyser Work?, n.d.). Each of these three function slightly differently, and are reliable to their own degree. Regardless, each contains a mouthpiece in which the participant breathes into. However, policing agencies often use the Fuel Cell Breathalyser, which also contains a system of photocells and two vials. The reason that the presence of alcohol can be tested through an individual’s breath is because it is volatile, and once it is consumed, it flows in the bloodstream across the alveoli and is evaporated into the alveolar air. Thus, once the alveolar air is exhaled when the individual breathes into a mouthpiece, any presence of alcohol will be detected in the vial. Upon entering one vial, the breath sample is bubbled through a mixture of sulphuric acid (8H2SO4), silver nitrate (AgNO3), and potassium dichromate (2K2Cr2O72-), which is red-orange in colour and readily reacts with ethanol/ ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH), the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. During this reaction, the catalyst silver nitrate increases the rate of reaction, and the sulphuric acid transports the potentially alcoholic air into a liquid solution. This is where the potential alcohol present in the air will react with the dichromate ion 2K2Cr2O72-, to create a colour and chemical change into a green chromium ion known as chromium sulphate [2Cr2(SO4)3], in addition to potassium sulphate (2K2SO4), acetic acid (3CH3COOH), and water (11H2O) (Freudenrich, n.d.). This reaction is shown in Figure 1.

Displayed in Figure 1, the dichromate ion 2K2Cr2O72-, originally a red-orange colour, is transformed into the green chromium ion 2Cr2(SO4)3. The extent of this colour change is determined by the quantity of ethanol found in the participant’s breath (Freudenrich, n.d.). If the participant is under the influence of alcohol, then the new colour in the vial will be pale enough for light to pass through it. The colour in that vial will then be compared to the other vial in the breathalyser also containing dichromate ion, but no ethanol, in a photocell system. The light that the first vial...

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