Driving Under the Influence of…Ice Cream?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on January 21st, 2009

I’ve posted repeatedly in the past about the multitude of problems with breath-alcohol machines – including the disturbing fact that they are non-specific for ethyl alcohol.  In fact, they don’t actually measure alcohol, but rather the presence of the methyl group in the compound.  See Why Breathlayzers Don’t Measure Alcohol.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of compounds that contain the methyl group, and studies have confirmed that over 100 of these have been found on the human breath.  In one oft-cited experiment, for example, blood-alcohol levels of .05% were reported by breath machines after the subjects consumed only bread.  See Driving Under the Influence of…Bread?

Recently, MADD has successfully pushed for the mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in cars driven by anyone convicted of drunk driving — and, in time, as standard equipement in all vehicles.  See  All U.S. Cars to Have Ignition Interlock Devices? and Why is MADD Pushing Ignition Interlock Devices?  And I’ve written about the deficiencies of these primitive devices.  See The Truth About Ignition Interlock Devices  and my article published in Business Week, MADD Announces End to Drunk Driving: A Reply.

In yesterday’s news:


Ice Cream Causes Positive Alcohol Test 

Frankston, Australia.  Jan. 20 – An Australian man challenged to prove his claim that ice cream gave him a blood alcohol reading demonstrated his defense in court.

The man, whose name was not given, had asked Frankston Magistrates’ Court to remove the breath testing alcohol interlock device from his car, the (Melbourne, Australia) Daily Sun reported Tuesday.

Prosecutors inquired why the machine had registered a "fail," which prevents the car from starting, despite the man’s claims that he had not been drinking.

The man claimed the alcohol reading was the result of eating a Bubble O’ Bill ice cream treat and Magistrate Rod Crisp ordered a test to be performed to back up the claim. Police recorded the man’s blood alcohol content as 0.00 and performed the test a second time after he took a few bites of Bubble O’ Bill, yielding a 0.018 reading.

Crisp granted the man’s request to remove the breath testing device from his car.

Experts said consuming some foods or drinks before breath tests can cause a false positive reading. It is recommended that that test subjects wait at least 15 minutes in between eating and blowing into the machine.


(Thanks to Jonathan Lenners)

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