Monthly Archives: July 2006
In a recent post ("Driving Under the Influence of a Cell Phone"), I commented that if MADD were as interested in reducing traffic fatalities as they were in returning to Prohibition, they would campaign against the use of cell phones while driving. MADD appears to recognize this, as indicated by the results of a MADD-sponsored nationwide 2005 Gallup poll appearing on their official website:
Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs was listed as the greatest highway safety problem by the largest percentage of respondents (37 percent) — up from 29 percent in 2000 — followed by speeding (27 percent) and cell phones (19 percent).
Yet, on another part of the same website entitled "Position Statements" appears the following:
WHEREAS, MADD has long advocated that its members and the public at large report suspected impaired drivers to law enforcement; and WHEREAS, MADD recognizes the benefits of wireless telephones in vehicles for the purpose of reporting suspected impaired drivers as well as for prompt response to medical emergencies following traffic crashes and other emergency situations; THEREFORE, MADD supports the use of wireless telephones in this manner as an additional tool which can play an important role in the war against drunk driving…
So, yes, cell phones are dangerous to use in cars — but you should keep one anyway…But only to report drunk drivers!
Recent research on laboratory rats concludes that nicotine substantially reduces blood-alcohol levels:
Nicotine ‘Sobers Up’ Drunk Rats
A new study helps to explain why smokers tend to have boozier nights out than non-smokers. The work, done in rats, shows that a heavy dose of nicotine can cut blood-alcohol levels in half. If cigarettes similarly lower intoxication in people, it could mean that smokers need to drink more than non-smokers to get the same buzz…
To mimic more closely the effect in human drinkers, (Texas A&M researcher Wei-Jung) Chen and his colleagues studied the effects of binge drinking in adult rats. They injected rats’ stomachs with a dose of alcohol roughly equivalent to around four or five drinks in quick succession; enough to make their blood alcohol hit double the United States legal driving limit of 0.08%. The team also gave the animals a range of nicotine doses similar to those in the bodies of light, moderate or heavy smokers.
In ‘heavy smoking’ animals, the nicotine slashed the rats’ peak blood-alcohol level, which came about an hour after injection, in half. Blood alcohol of ‘moderate smoking’ animals dropped by around 30%, and animals mimicking light smokers were not affected. The results are reported in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
(Thanks to attorney Troy McKinney of Houston.)
The following, excerpted from my book Drunk Driving Defense, 6th ed., was kindly provided by Dr. Stefan Rose, M.D., and Dr. Kenneth G. Furton, Ph.D.:
The longer the exhaled breath, the higher the breath alcohol concentration. This is explained by the fact that gravity causes the blood to “pool” at the base of the lungs. More alcohol is contained at the base of the lungs than at the top of the lungs. The last part of an exhaled breath comes from the base of the lungs and contains more alcohol than the first part of an exhaled breath, so that the breath-alcohol concentration will be higher at the end of the breath sample than at the beginning. Therefore, the “real” concentration of alcohol in the breath sample can never be determined.
Despite this, many states still permit urinalysis to be used in determining a suspect’s blood-alcohol concentration. This is consistently the least accurate of the three available methods of analysis. The reasons for this are basically three.
First, the test is completely dependent on the subject voiding his bladder and then waiting 20 minutes for fresh urine to be secreted into the bladder for a more representative sample. And it is virtually impossible for an individual to completely void his bladder: There will usually be about 10cc of old urine left. This urine will combine with approximately 20cc of fresh urine produced during the wait, resulting in a sample that is one-third old urine – a sample that will contain alcohol from many hours before the subect was driving.
Second, the concentration of alcohol in the blood is arrived at by assuming that the amount of alcohol in the urine is 1.33 times greater. In other words, a partition ratio of 1.33:1 is used. And as I’ve written in an earlier post concerning breath-to-blood partition ratios (“ ), this is only an average: the ratio varies from person to person and within one person from moment to moment. Translated into practical consequences, a person with a blood-urine ratio of 2.0:1 who has, for example, a true blood-alcohol level of .06% will have his urine sample analyzed as indicating a blood-alcohol level of .10% — that is, a presumably sober person will be “scientifically” proven to be under the influence of alcohol.
Third, urine often contains a yeast called Candida albicans. This organism has an interesting characteristic: it manufactures alcohol in the urine (caused by the interaction with glucose). This “immaculate conception” of alcohol in the bladder has been confirmed by numerous scientific studies. See, for example, “Bladder Beer — A New Clinical Observation”, 95 Transactions of the American Clinical Climatological Association 34.
To make things more interesting, Candida albicans is also unaffected by preservatives added by the police to urine specimens. In other words, alcohol will continue to be produced inside the evidence vial for days until it is finally analyzed at the crime lab.
As I pointed out in a post awhile back ("How to Make a Million in the DUI Business"), police are under increasing pressure to make drunk driving arrests to raise badly-needed revenue for local government. Now consider the following news story appearing three days ago in the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
A new law that relaxes restrictions on how police can spend money collected from drunken driving fines could mean changes for big departments but probably not for smaller agencies that make fewer of those arrests, local police chiefs say. Police departments get $100 for each first-time drunken driving conviction resulting from an arrest made by its officers, and $200 for the second offense. Under the old law, police were required to use this money to buy equipment for the enforcement of alcohol-related crimes. Now, under a law that took effect at the end of last month, they can use the money for broader purposes such as paying for officers' salaries, sting operations and sobriety checkpoints…
So now the officer's incentive to make DUI arrests — good or bad — is to pay his own salary.