DUI / DWAI Myths and Facts

Myth: It is better to drink wine and or beer because they are weaker than hard liquor and contain less alcohol.

Fact: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1 ¼ ounces (shot) of liquor (80 proof) contain the same amount of alcohol.

Myth: A person can sober up and reduce his or her BAC quicker by drinking coffee and water and taking a cold shower.

Fact: While the caffeine in coffee and a cold shower may make a person feel more awake, time is the only way for a person to sober up and for the BAC to drop.  The liver metabolizes the alcohol in one’s body and coverts it into a harmless substance before it is eliminated from the body. The metabolic process is the only way for a person to reduce his or her BAC and sober up.

Myth: Mouthwash or breath freshener spray will help you beat a DUI.

Fact: Using mouthwash or a breath freshener spray before you take any type of breath test is a bad idea.  Mouthwash and breath freshener spray contain a significant amount of alcohol, which may become trapped in dentures pockets or cavity pockets in the mouth resulting in an artificially elevated breath test result.

Myth: The odor of alcohol on a person’s breath is an accurate and reliable indicator of intoxication.

Fact: Alcohol is actually odorless.  It is the congeners (additives) that give an alcoholic beverage its odor and this is what most people perceive as the odor of alcohol on a person’s breath. Non-alcoholic beer such as O’Doul’s will produce the same smell on a person’s breath as an alcoholic beer.  Scientific research has shown that there is no significant correlation between the strength of the odor of alcohol on a person’s breath and his or her blood alcohol concentration. In a controlled scientific experiment using experienced law enforcement officers, the results showed the BAC estimates made by the officers based on odor of alcohol alone were no more accurate than a random guess.  See, Moscowitz, H., Burns, M. and Ferguson, S. Police Officers’ Detection of Breath Odors from Ingestion, Accident Analysis and prevention, 1999 (May), 31 (3), 175 180.

Myth: Sucking on a penny or using chewing tobacco can help you beat a breath test.

Fact: There is no published scientific evidence whatsoever that indicates sucking on a penny or copper wire or chewing tobacco have any effect on the results of an alcohol breath testing machine.

Myth: The standard field sobriety tests given by police are based on scientific principle and can accurately identify drunk drivers.

Fact: The three standard field sobriety tests which are the HGN test, the Walk and Turn test and the One leg Stand test were determined to be 77%, 65% and 68% reliable when performed under laboratory conditions.  This means that the study took place indoors on a flat, level, dry, debris free surface and in shoes where the heels were less than two inches.  The volunteers who participated in the study were under 65 years of age and in good health with no back, leg, knee, ankle, eye, inner ear or balance conditions or other medical conditions which may affect a person’s performance on theses tests.  The majority of the standard field sobriety tests are given on the side of a highway at night with strobe lights flashing, no straight line to walk, sometimes in the shivering cold, and sometimes in ice or snow which means these ideal conditions are almost never met.  Further, Police Officers rarely perform these tests as they are trained.

Myth:  The average person can consume three to four drinks in one hour and not exceed the legal BAC limit.

Fact:  The alcohol content in a person’s blood will continue to rise 1 ½ to 3 hours after drinking, which means even though a person may have stopped drinking and the level of impairment may be declining, the BAC level is still increasing.  The average man who has four to five drinks in an hour will most likely exceed the legal BAC limit for an extended period of time after they have stopped drinking. The same is true for the average woman who has three to four drinks in one hour.

Myth: Blood Alcohol Content is a reliable indicator of driving impairment.

Fact:  A person’s tolerance for alcohol will increase over time with consistent alcohol consumption. A person who consumes alcohol on a regular basis will most likely be less impaired at a given BAC than someone who rarely drinks.

Myth:  Breath alcohol testing machines (Breathalyzers) accurately measure the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood.

Fact:  A breathalyzer machine does not actually measure the blood alcohol content in a person’s blood. This can only be accomplished with a blood test. Breathalyzers attempt to measure the alcohol vapor in the breath in order to estimate the concentration of alcohol in the blood.  A Breathalyzer machine will detect any chemical compound that contains the methyl group in its molecular structure. There are thousands of such compounds such as gasoline, glue, acetone, asthma inhalers, paint, paint remover, celluloid, cleaning fluids, and many more.  In order to estimate blood alcohol concentration levels, these breath alcohol machines assume as constants certain ratios within the human body that actually vary widely from person to person and within the same person over time. For example, many breath alcohol testing machines assume a 2,100-to-1 ratio in converting alcohol in the breath to estimates of alcohol in the blood. However, this ratio varies from 1,900 to 2,400 among people and also within a person over time. Also, most breath alcohol testing machines assume a hematocrit (blood cells as a percent of blood volume) of 47%. However, hematocrit values range from 42 to 49% in men and from 37 to 47% in women.  As a result, a person with a lower hematocrit level will have an erroneously high BAC level.

Posted in DUI

Comments are closed.