As drunk driving laws have become stricter, more police forces are depending on breathalyzer tests to determine if a driver is intoxicated. In some states, when someone applies for a driver’s license, they are told that refusing a breathalyzer could result in their being charged with a drunk driving incident. However, there are numerous things that can result in an inaccurate report. Some of the reasons why a breathalyzer test may be inaccurate are out of the control of drivers and must be reviewed carefully if someone is stopped.
Most breathalyzer machines that are used by law enforcement require calibration. For those who understand calibration techniques, this may not seem like a major undertaking. However, if departments across a state or community handle their calibration differently, there may be variances in how blood alcohol levels are determined in each unit.
People who take certain medications, have various medical conditions (like diabetes) or have specific diets may also have variances in their blood alcohol levels. Additionally, a person’s weight, body mass index and other factors may also play a role in blood alcohol levels. Some foods or non-alcoholic beverages may also result in a higher blood alcohol level.
From time to time, a breathalyzer test that is taken can be significantly different as little as ten minutes later. For some people who smoke or have eaten or had something (non-alcoholic) to drink a breathalyzer test may show a false positive or a higher rating than someone who has not had a cigarette, drink or food prior to testing.
There have been some instances where a breathalyzer provides a false high reading due to environmental factors. Acetone and other air contaminates can result in a higher blood alcohol reading than normal. While this is not always the case, there are still some instances where a breathalyzer test is inaccurate.
Drunk driving is a very serious problem across most of the United States. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that drivers with a blood alcohol level of at least 0.08% were responsible for more than 11,000 deaths in 2009 and also shows that US adults drank too much and got behind the wheel about 112 million times in 2010. There is little doubt that drunk driving is not good for those driving or for those who are their victims. However, because breathalyzer tests are not always accurate, it is important that if someone is charged with a DUI that they contact an attorney immediately. Just because a breathalyzer shows a high blood alcohol level does not mean that the reading is accurate.