As many still struggle to figure out the implications of new drink-driving laws, a group of enterprising business students may have hit upon a solution to put a definite end to that eternal question: have I had too much to drink?

The students, who are taking part in the annual JAYE Malta Company programme under the name Exhale, have come up with a battery-powered breathalyser in the form of an easily-portable keychain.

The breathalyser device is activated with a quick puff that will instantly let the user know whether s/he is still within legal limits to drive.

“From the first day the team got together to take part in this year’s JAYE programme, we knew we wanted to come up with something that was of use to society. Our initial thoughts veered towards the environment but then we decided we wanted a product that offered immediate results,” Andrea Galea, the team’s marketing director, said.

With the students making up the team all hailing from a business background, the necessary scientific knowledge required to develop the product was lacking. But this stumbling block was not enough to halt the project.

“We spent months researching the topic and the products available in other countries. It turned out that, in Malta, there was one attempt to offer portable breathalysers but the initiative failed to take off,” Mr Galea said.

A small pool of potential suppliers was identified, until further research narrowed it down to a distributor in China.

“We negotiated the price and the rights to it and sealed the deal. The location of the product presented some challenges, especially with respect to shipping times and costings – not to mention the considerable language barrier – but the advantages of the product itself outweighed these, so we decided to go ahead,” the young entrepreneur said.

Mentored by Matthew Manfre, the students came up with a roadmap that included rebranding the breathalyser into an Exhale product and making sure it reached the target market.

With the first batch taking over a month to reach Malta and be prepared for distribution, the process was not without its anxiety-inducing moments but the encouraging feedback soon put all misgivings to rest.

“We sold out the first batch of about a 100 devices and ordered more, which, thankfully, didn’t take so long to make it to Malta. The feedback from our teachers has also been positive,” Mr Galea continued.

Upon seeing continued interest, the students held meetings with bar owners and other stakeholders, including personnel from the Emergency Department at Mater Dei Hospital, who offered valuable insight into the advantages of fostering a culture where self-care in such matters is considered natural.

“We will stop selling the devices in mid-April, due to JAYE competition rules, but we are hoping to be able to continue the business afterwards,” Mr Galea concluded.

Portable breathalysers are commonly used abroad, with France having gone as far as to make it a legal requirement for all drivers to carry breathalyser devices.

In Malta, the alcohol limit for drivers was reduced from 0.8g of alcohol per litre of blood, which was the highest limit in Europe, to 0.5g for all drivers.

On average, two drinks in the first hour raise a person’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) to 0.5g and one standard drink per hour subsequently will maintain that level. For new drivers with a driving licence issued less than two years earlier, the limit is set even lower, at 0.2g/l.

According to a police statement, five drivers reached the level of reasonable suspicion to warrant a legitimate breathalyser test on New Year’s Eve, three of whom were found to be drink-driving.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us