Archive for April, 2007

DUI on Ice

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

A brief, shining moment of reason in the War on Drunk Driving: 

Zamboni Operator Can't be Charged with

Drunk Driving, Judge Rules

Newark, NJ.  April 3 (AP) –  It's not drunken driving in New Jersey if it involves a Zamboni.

A judge ruled the four-ton ice rink-grooming machines aren’t motor vehicles because they aren't useable on highways and can’t carry passengers.

Zamboni operator John Peragallo had been charged with drunken driving in 2005 after a fellow employee at the Mennen Sports Arena in Morristown told police the machine was speeding and nearly crashed into the boards…

Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph D’Onofrio said no decision had been made on whether to appeal.

Where was this common sense when they convicted folks for DUI on wheelchairslawnmowershorses – and even a foot-high toy bike?  (See "Stretching the Language of DUI Laws".)


Another Drunk…or Diabetic

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Yesterday I discussed the problem of chemical compounds on the breath which are falsely reported as ethyl alcohol by breathalyzers.  Diabetics, for example, have elevated levels of acetones on their breath when hypoglycemic.  Unfortunately, they also exhibit false symptoms of intoxication — as today's news demonstrates:

Mistaken for Drunk, Mr. Universe is Arrested

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.  April 3 (AP)  – The reigning Mr. Universe faces assault and resisting arrest charges following a run-in with police who mistakenly believed the diabetic bodybuilder was intoxicated.

Doug Burns, 43, was sprayed with Mace and wrestled to the ground by officers who were summoned to a movie theater Sunday night by a security guard, authorities said.

Burns, who was trying a new diabetes drug that night, said Monday he was preparing to see a film when he felt dizziness and poor vision — a sign of low blood sugar — and hurried to a snack counter.

The security guard noticed Burns' strange behavior and asked him to leave, thinking he was intoxicated, Redwood City Police Capt. Chris Cessina said.

When officers arrived, Burns allegedly lunged at one of them, pushing him to the ground with both hands, and took a fighting stance, Cessina said. Burns continued being combative until four officers wrestled him down, the captain said.

During the scuffle, the officers did not notice Burns' Medic Alert bracelet. An on-scene medical test later confirmed that Burns had low blood sugar during the incident, Cessina said…

Setting aside the question of whether you believe a diabetic weakened by hypoglycemia would assault four cops for no reason, this is another example of a commonly-encountered phenomena in DUI arrests.  See "Drunk Driver?…or Diabetic?" and "The Diabetic DUI".

But it's not really a problem, right?  I mean, how many diabetics falsely charged with DUI can there be out there?  From the American Diabetes Association:

There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 7% of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed, unfortunately, 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease…


Dieting Causes False Positives on Ignition Interlocks

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

As I’ve railed repeatedly in the past, breath testing machines are inaccurate and unreliable for a wide number of reasons.  (See "How Breathalyzers Work – and Why They Don’t").  One of these reasons is that they are non-specific for alcohol.  Consider this recent news story:

Diet Driving: Low-Calorie Diet

Produces False Positives for Alcohol

Swedish researchers have discovered that a low-calorie diet can register a false positive on certain in-car ignition interlock devices that disable a vehicle if alcohol is detected on one’s breath.

The anomaly was discovered when a non-drinking airplane pilot reported the incident. Turns out the man was on a very restrictive diet that had him losing weight rapidly, which is what may have caused the false reading. As reported in the latest issue of the International Journal of Obesity, motorists on very low-calorie diets may release certain ketones that could be converted into a secondary alcohol known as isopropanol.

Police officials point out that false positives are eliminated in the field as breathalyzer tests are used in conjunction with secondary tests that focus on the type of alcohol and other factors. No citation for drunk driving would be issued in those situations. However, if you have one of these interlock devices on your car, your low-cal diet could spell the demise of your travel plans.

And "police officials" don’t know what they are talking about.  Most "breathalyzers" have the same problem as ignition interlock devices: they are non-specific for ethyl alcohol — that is, they can’t distinguish between ethyl alcohol and thousands of other chemical compounds, among them ketones.  See my earlier posts, "Why Breathalyzers Don’t Measure Alcohol" and "Dieting Can Cause High Breathalyzer Results".

The same problem is commonly encountered with diabetics, who have elevated levels of ketones on their breath when they are hypoglycemic.  See "Drunk Driver?…or Diabetic?" and "The Diabetic DUI".

(Thanks to Troy McKinney.)


K-9 Units for DUI?

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

From the arsenal in the War on Drunk Driving:

‘DUI Wolf-Pack’ Releases Results of Hunt

Pinellas County, Florida. - Deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department “DUI Wolf-Pack” released results from the weekend’s “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign.

Deputies from the Sheriff’s Office Traffic Enforcement Unit, and K-9 Unit, were looking for alcohol and drug impaired drivers…

You drink and drive, you lose….a leg.