DWI/DUI Facts & Fiction: Urban Myths
The subject of DWI and DUI is surrounded by common myths which are corrected here with scientific information and evidence.
- Myth: Sucking on pennies will lower a person’s BAC reading.
- Fact: Sucking on pennies or other copper has no effect on alcohol breath tester BAC results. Don’t be a sucker… it makes no cents!
- Myth: “Alcohol on the breath” is a reliable sign of alcohol consumption and intoxication.
- Fact: Alcohol is actually odorless…. it has no smell. What people perceive as alcohol on the breath is actually the odor of things commonly found in alcoholic beverages. The breath of a person who drinks a non-alcoholic beer will smell the same as that of a person who has consumed an alcoholic beer.
- Myth: People who abstain from alcohol are “alcohol-free” and can’t be arrested for DUI.
- Fact: The human body produces its own supply of alcohol naturally on a continuous basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s called endogenous ethanol production. Therefore, we always have alcohol in our bodies and in some cases people produce enough to become legally intoxicated and arrested for DUI.
- Myth: A Breathalyzer will clear from suspicion those diabetics suffering hypoglycemia, whose slurred speech, disorientation, staggering, drowsiness, poor motor control, and flushed face cause them to fail field sobriety tests.
- Fact: Hypoglycemia causes acetone in the breath, which the Breathalyzer will record as alcohol on the breath. Unfortunately, about one of seven drivers is diabetic and at risk of false arrest and conviction for DUI/DWI.
- Myth: Field sobriety tests, being based on scientific principles, accurately identify intoxicated drivers.
- Fact: A study conducted by scientists at Clemson University demonstrated that 46% of completely sober individuals were deemed too drunk to drive by police officers! Therefore, use of field sobriety tests led to judgments by law enforcement officers that were about as accurate as flipping a coin.
- Myth: Breathalyzers and other breath testers are accurate.
- Fact: A breath reading of .08 reflects an actual level of anywhere from .07 to .09 or even .065 to .095. That’s a margin of error of 20-30%.
- Myth: Law enforcement officers can’t influence the BAC reading of a breath-testing machine.
- Fact: Law enforcement officers can and do influence BAC readings. The last part of the breath can be over 50% above the alcohol level. For example, a breath reading of 0.14 taken from the last part of the breath may indicate that the blood level is only 0.09. This is why an officer encourages an arrestee by saying: “Blow harder! Harder!”
- Myth: Alcohol breath testers measure the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood stream.
- Fact: They attempt to measure alcohol in the breath in order to estimate the concentration of alcohol in the blood. In reality, alcohol breath testers detect any chemical compounds that contain the methyl group in its molecular structure. Unfortunately, there are thousands of such compounds. Many occur naturally in the human breath or are picked up from disease; inhaling fumes from gasoline, glue, paint, paint remover, “new car smell,” celluloid, cleaning fluids, etc.
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