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'[EE:] Blood Alcohol Test Error'
2004\07\04@192235 by Matthew Brush

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Hi all,

I'm just reading about BAC testing device (used
roadside by police) on How Stuff Works.  Something
that troubles me is, how accurate are these devices?
Like if the limit is 0.08 and one blew 0.09, they
would be considered Driving Under the Influence, but
what's there % error with these devices.  Surely they
can't be accurate enough to guarantee that someone who
blew 0.09 doesn't actually have a BAC of 0.07 right?

Not that I drive drunk or anything, but it just seems
like something where non-chemists are using very
technical devices like BAC testers couldn't be
accurate enough to discern 0.01 difference in BAC.

Anyone care to comment?

Cheers

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2004\07\04@194230 by Jim Korman

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Matthew Brush wrote:

{Quote hidden}

Ahh yes, Google is our friend.....

http://www2.potsdam.edu/alcohol-info/DrivingIssues/1055505643.html

Jim

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2004\07\04@194645 by Jinx

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> Like if the limit is 0.08 and one blew 0.09, they
> would be considered Driving Under the Influence

It would be an indicator to give grounds for an evidential test,
which may be negative. If there is a known fuzzy range it
would be better that the BACs are reading on the high side
so as to not let the marginally intoxicated off the hook

(Not that I drink and pedal either - half a shandy and I'm anybody's)

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2004\07\04@195513 by Jinx

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> Ahh yes, Google is our friend.....
>
> http://www2.potsdam.edu/alcohol-info/DrivingIssues/1055505643.html
>
> Jim

Good page. Dollars to donuts waving a printout of it at a cop
wouldn't stopped you being hauled in. Cops just love roadside
amateur lawyers and you might as well get a spade out of the
boot and start digging that hole ;-)

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2004\07\04@195927 by Bob Axtell

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There is tolerance in every test ever devised.

But I think that the state law considered the error tolerance when they
wrote the law, as every person who challenges the meter is allowed to
provide blood for a very accurate blood-based test. The problem is that
once they have that, they can steal some for a DNA test, a drug screen,
an HIV test, and about 100 other things that you REALLY don't want them
to test for, right?

I work for 'em, but I gotta tell ya, they rarely tell you the whole
story about anything. I'd just take the breath test then pay the fine.

--Bob

Matthew Brush wrote:
{Quote hidden}

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2004\07\04@195928 by Jinx

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BTW, Matthew, sorry to slightly hijack your thread, but harking
back to revenue-gathering speeding tickets

www.nswombudsman.nsw.gov.au/publications/Publist_pdfs/reports/SRTP_sp
eedometers_and_speeding_fines_0403.pdf

Note, apart from knowing how accurate your speedo is (a nice
weekend project for a PIC I'd have thought), the recommendation
for officer flexibility and discretion

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2004\07\04@202248 by Russell McMahon

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> I'm just reading about BAC testing device (used
> roadside by police) on How Stuff Works.  Something
> that troubles me is, how accurate are these devices?
> Like if the limit is 0.08 and one blew 0.09, they
> would be considered Driving Under the Influence, but
> what's there % error with these devices.  Surely they
> can't be accurate enough to guarantee that someone who
> blew 0.09 doesn't actually have a BAC of 0.07 right?

You COULD take the line (but most wouldn't) that

- "actual" blood alcohol and that indicated by the test are not certain to
be 100% identical and the sample itself could be high or low by a certain
margin.
- and add to this that there is an error margin in the instrumentation and
testing method and you get an even wider spread than just measurement error.
- then you add the variability in effect of alcohol on various people and
see that some are much more controlled than others at the same alcohol
reading, and note that the aim of the limit is (presumably) to set some sort
of safety limit.
- and you could note that women seem to be somewhat more affected by alcohol
by men (but this may or may not be  solely or mainly related to weight)
- and note that some people are genetically more affected by alcohol than
others

and out of all this conclude that trying to stand *right on the very edge*
of the crumbling cliff edge, *right on the very edge* of the windy platform
when the Shinkansen/TUV/... was coming ("Mind the gap" (only UK readers will
understand :-) )), *right on the very edge*of the motorway lane while
changing a tyre, ...
was unwise, and conclude that in real life all edges are ill defined, and
that it is reasonable to add a reasonable margin of error in all such cases
so that you have very little chance of falling / being hit by a train / hit
by a car / failing an alcohol test.

But, as I said, for some reason or other, some probably feel that that line
is unreasonable in this case :-)
(JG will now probably ask me why I am so against individual rights and
liberties and wishing to impose my will on others. Maybe I should stand
further away from the edge :-) ).





       Russell McMahon


PS: One may also guess, perhaps incorrectly, that testers are built with an
allowance for margin of error so that their results can be defended in
court.

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2004\07\04@205230 by William Chops Westfield

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On Jul 4, 2004, at 5:20 PM, Russell McMahon wrote:

> and out of all this conclude that trying to stand *right on the very
> edge* of the crumbling cliff edge...

All the stuff I've seen pretty much indicates that by the time the
breathalyzer test shows you anywhere NEAR the legal limit, you're
REALLY drunk.  Staggering around and giggling drunk.  (for instance,
see that episode of Mythbusters, where they tried assorted folk
remedies to beat the breathalyzer,  where one of their problems was
getting up to the limit in the first place (IIRC, it took about 12
drinks.)  I've also seen interesting things elsewhere (drivers ed?)
where people tried to drive an obstacle course after reaching the
limit.  This wound up with the driver mowing down all the cones,
smashing into the dummy, leaping out of the car and running around with
his arms in the air yelling 'ya hooooo!')  The point where you really
shouldn't be driving is WAY before that...   (of course, this is what
"they" want you to believe, right?)

Besides, there's no particular reason to think that detecting .01%
differences in BAL should be difficult.  That's the region where the
test is designed to work.  It's not like it has to cover 0 to 1% with
16 bits of accuraccy.  Just being good enough to agree with a blood test
over the limit +/- 12% (.07 - .09?) most of the time is fine.
(but it doesn't take into account people's different reactions to
alcohol, nor their different "starting points" for coordination and
reaction time.  I got kicked of a jury once for mentioning that...)

(it's a bit like the chlorine tests for swimming pools, which measure 0
to 5 ppm of chlorine.  It's not really hard, just cause it's a small
amount.  But the tests do a lousy job measuring MORE than 5 ppm...)

BillW

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2004\07\04@212213 by Matthew Brush

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>http://www2.potsdam.edu/alcohol-info/DrivingIssues/1055505643.html
>
> Jim
>

It sound like from this article that someone trying to
cover up their breath with Mouthwash (which contains
ethyl alcohol I think) would most definitively blow
over on a BAC test.  Maybe even some of the new super
strong gums would do that too.

To the fellow that mentionned Mythbusters, what did
they try to do to beat the test?  I love that show,
hopefully I'll catch that one soon.  Did they get
hammered?

Cheers

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LeftClick.ca Internet Media Services
mbrush@[NOSPAM]leftclick.ca

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2004\07\04@224039 by William Chops Westfield

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On Jul 4, 2004, at 6:23 PM, Matthew Brush wrote:

> To the fellow that mentionned Mythbusters, what did
> they try to do to beat the test?  I love that show,
> hopefully I'll catch that one soon.  Did they get
> hammered?

I think they did onions, mouthwash, and several other things.  None of
them worked; I think one or two (perhaps the mouthwash) sent them
higher.

Like I said, the interesting part was when they were sitting there
going "ok, I've had 6 drinks in an hour and I'm pretty plastered, lets
go", and the cops kept saying "sorry, you haven't reached the limit
yet.  Drink more."  (They didn't show the aftermath.  I bet it wasn't a
pleasant morning...)

BillW

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2004\07\04@225947 by Spehro Pefhany

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At 05:00 PM 7/4/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>There is tolerance in every test ever devised.
>
>But I think that the state law considered the error tolerance when they
>wrote the law, as every person who challenges the meter is allowed to
>provide blood for a very accurate blood-based test. The problem is that
>once they have that, they can steal some for a DNA test, a drug screen,
>an HIV test, and about 100 other things that you REALLY don't want them
>to test for, right?
>
>I work for 'em, but I gotta tell ya, they rarely tell you the whole
>story about anything. I'd just take the breath test then pay the fine.
>
>--Bob

From what I've read, in Ontario the penalties for driving under the
influence have become EXTREMELY punitive. Your insurance will
skyrocket by thousands of dollars, or you may not be able to get
it at all, and you HAVE to install a breathalyzer interlock
on your car for $thousands of dollars after the mandatory year or
so of licence revocation expires- for at least another year.

It sounds like exceeding 0.08 would be a real life-altering experience.
Intentionally so, of course, but it's far more than just shelling out
a few hundred bucks or even a couple thousand dollars (the maximum
for a first offence) for a fine. Six months in jail for a first offense
is possible, and  also they remove your licence on the spot (before you
are convicted) for 90 days under administrative rules (before conviction
and the one year + one year interlock minimum kicks in)

www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/impaired/interlock/
http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/impaired/breaklaw/breaklaw.htm

They estimate the total cost in the $15K range, minimum.

It's also a criminal code offence and can result in being turned
back at international borders, which is becoming more likely as such
information
is being shared between governments more readily..

What I don't know is whether the police are giving people who are
close to the limit a bit of a break, knowing how it could totally screw
up their lives.

Best regards,

Spehro Pefhany --"it's the network..."            "The Journey is the reward"
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2004\07\04@231023 by Ian Hooper

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Of course in Ontario, even if you don't "blow over" .08, you can still be
charged with impaired. Just not worth the risk, been there done that, and
yes $5k /year insurance for a while after that. Don't drink and drive eh?!

ian


{Original Message removed}

2004\07\05@151520 by John N. Power

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> From:         Matthew Brush[SMTP:RemoveMEmatthewbrushEraseMEspamEraseMEYAHOO.CA]
> Sent:         Sunday, July 04, 2004 9:23 PM
> To:   RemoveMEPICLISTspam_OUTspamKILLspamMITVMA.MIT.EDU
> Subject:      Re: [EE:] Blood Alcohol Test Error

>>www2.potsdam.edu/alcohol-info/DrivingIssues/1055505643.html
>>
>> Jim
>>

> It sound like from this article that someone trying to
> cover up their breath with Mouthwash (which contains
> ethyl alcohol I think) would most definitively blow
> over on a BAC test.  Maybe even some of the new super
> strong gums would do that too.

. . .

> Cheers

> =====
> MJ Brush
> LeftClick.ca Internet Media Services
> mbrush@[NOSPAM]leftclick.ca

The theory behind the breath test is that any alcohol in
the mouth itself will evaporate quickly and disappear. I
believe that they ask you to inhale and exhale several
times before taking the test. (I have never been asked to
take the test, but I have read that.) This is to guarantee
that any such residual alcohol will not affect the measurement.

Alcohol that is swallowed is absorbed into the blood stream
through the stomach wall and is then circulated. This preserves
the alcohol from immediate evaporation. As it passes through
the lungs on each pass, some fraction of the alcohol will
pass back into the air which is exhaled, causing a slow
release of alcohol through the breath. The same phenomenon
occurs after eating certain foods, like onions, which contain
aromatic oils. One's breath will continue to smell like onions
until all of the oils are metabolized. This process takes
a relatively long time and there is nothing that will hurry it up.

The percent of alcohol in the blood is probably measured by
comparing the concentration of alcohol in the breath sample
with that of some other component in the breath, such as
carbon dioxide. The ratio of the measurements is the actual
indication. This would be similar to measuring pollution
emissions from a car's exhaust by also measuring the CO2
content and comparing.

John Power

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2004\07\05@171732 by Matthew Brush

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--- Ian Hooper <RemoveMEnoisyTakeThisOuTspamspamROGERS.COM> wrote:
> Of course in Ontario, even if you don't "blow over"
> .08, you can still be
> charged with impaired. Just not worth the risk, been
> there done that, and
> yes $5k /year insurance for a while after that.
> Don't drink and drive eh?!
>
> ian

Yep, in Ontario it's Zero Tolerance.  If you get
pulled over and you have even 0.04 or whatever (or you
said you had one beer) they can pull your license for
12 hours if they deem it necessary.

On the other hand, my cousin has been charged with DUI
several times now and it wasn't until the last one
that they finally took his license away for a
substantial period of time (6mo. - 1yr.).  Before that
it was just 90 days or 60 days or something.  The sad
part is, in 6 months when he gets his license back,
he'll get wasted and drive again, jeeze, he still does
it and he doesn't even have his license right now.
Hopefully no one gets hurt and the cops take it away
for good.  Some people can't handle the responsibility
of steering a 2000 pound hunk of metal flying at
50km/h.

Anyway, my $0.02 ... as an Ontarioan(sp?)

Cheers

=====
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LeftClick.ca Internet Media Services
mbrush@[NOSPAM]leftclick.ca

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2004\07\17@222412 by hilip Stortz

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yeah, i loved that show, until they were talking about cell phones
blowing up gasoline pumps.  now i doubt that cell phones are blowing up
gasoline pumps, but as a demonstration they tried to cause a fuel air
explosion in a Plexiglas box, they couldn't!  obviously these guys are
not well versed in the scientific method and don't bother to research
things enough, or they would have know that success would probably have
permanently deafened them, not to mention the property damage.  now if
they had tried it with hydrogen or acetylene, they probably would have
managed as both of those have a wide range of explosive mixture with
air, while gasoline apparently has a fairly narrow range (i know some
things have less than a 10% explosive range when mixed with air, and
some will hardly burn if there's a little too much)...

i suspect that their equipment may have been out of spec etc.  either
that or the state issued rules of the road books and drivers ed greatly
exaggerate how few drinks it takes to hit that limit.  i've had a lot
more than the alleged limit, and while i didn't drive, i'm sure i could
have to some extent.  timing is also a critical and often overlooked
issue, alcohol on average takes 45 minutes to peak intoxication, meaning
you may be fine when you leave, but if you just had 2 or 3 shots in the
last 10 minutes you could be very drunk soon.

overall, i'd like to see far, far more emphasis on how people drive no
matter what is in their blood than what is in their blood when they may
or may not be having a noticeable problem, i.e. stooping the people who
are clearly having a problem driving for whatever reason, be it alcohol,
clumsiness, or just being too tired.  it is perfectly legal to take over
the counter cold remedies and other otc. drugs, many of which can be
very impairing to some people.  many of the heavy duty cold meds can
knock some people right out, as can some allergy products, while others
scarcely notice them.  benadryl made me drowsy at one time, but i've
taken enough of it that it usually actually makes me more awake, because
i'm not drowsy from the allergies any more and the benadryl doesn't make
me drowsy at all (benadryl is just antihistamine, no decongestants which
are generally just stimulants).

i had problems with falling asleep driving on the highway (damn
alarming!) which i could not figure out, which led to me pulling over
while i could and taking short naps (for which some police departments
will charge you with drunk driving).  some time later i was diagnosed as
being diabetic, turns out that probably explains why drinking more cola
with caffeine and sugar seemed to make it worse.  as i said, i was aware
there was a problem, and was diligent about pulling over early on and
reduced my driving greatly, but some would not have been as responsible.
i also had someone else drive on most of those trips (or left early in
the day, and as i said, pulled off at the first sign of drowsiness).
sleep deprivation or uncontrolled blood sugar are certainly as dangerous
as alcohol, and in some cases no less willful.  fortunately my blood
sugar is easy to control, now that i know...

or it could have been rigged, it's happened before.  or they could all
just be a bunch of lite weights who haven't drunk in years, though that
seems unlikely.

William Chops Westfield wrote:
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2004\07\17@222415 by hilip Stortz

picon face
that sounds right, but i doubt it's a ratio (meaning that your breathing
rate, lung capacity etc. will change it), even if it is, persons with
varying metabolisms, on various hear medications (which dilate blood
vessels, including those in the lungs and hence increase vapor exchange
rates) or decongestants (which constrict blood vessels and would reduce
exchange rates) would have an effect, as would several other drugs that
effect blood vessels, blood pressure, respiration rate etc.  sadly i
suspect that in typical use, they are no more reliable than speed guns,
which are a joke and should be illegal, but are none the less used as an
expediency, justice be dammed.  it's very likely that many have been let
off who shouldn't have been, or have been charged in error.  never mind
the problems with police corruption (i'd like to see more police, but
i'd also like to see them be a lot more accountable, i like good police,
many current police are decidedly bad unfortunately).  i also wonder if
it's corrected for air temperature and pressure (i live at about 5,000
feet, were water boils around 212 deg F, not 220 as at sea level and
there is a lot less oxygen as well, as anyone who drives up from sea
level notices rather quickly, or anyone who runs across the yard).
there are of course also issues of selectivity, and interfering
substances, every chemical sensor i've ever seen has had some flaws in
each of those that either didn't matter in the application or were
otherwise corrected for.  for instance, you don't have to worry about
false positives from methanol too much, since they will definitely be
having problems from that, though not till the next day (methanol is not
poisonous in itself, the body turns it into formaldehyde when it's
metabolized, the treatment for exposure is massive ethanol dosing so
that most of the enzymes are tied up with that and most of the methanol
leaves the body unchanged).  you do have to worry about things like some
flavorings is suspect, in both directions.

"John N. Power" wrote:
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2004\07\18@000812 by Martin Klingensmith

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Philip Stortz wrote:

>yeah, i loved that show, until they were talking about cell phones
>blowing up gasoline pumps.  now i doubt that cell phones are blowing up
>gasoline pumps, but as a demonstration they tried to cause a fuel air
>explosion in a Plexiglas box, they couldn't!  obviously these guys are
>not well versed in the scientific method and don't bother to research
>things enough, or they would have know that success would probably have
>permanently deafened them, not to mention the property damage.  now if
>they had tried it with hydrogen or acetylene, they probably would have
>managed as both of those have a wide range of explosive mixture with
>air, while gasoline apparently has a fairly narrow range (i know some
>things have less than a 10% explosive range when mixed with air, and
>some will hardly burn if there's a little too much)...
>
>
They did make it explode, several times actually. They never do a "Will
it explode..." without actually blowing something up. A few square feet
of gasoline/air will not cause excessive damage, nor will hydrogen/air.
Pure oxygen would be a different story, as would acetylene/any oxidizer.
--
Martin Klingensmith

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2004\07\20@134344 by Peter L. Peres

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>They did make it explode, several times actually. They never do a "Will
>it explode..." without actually blowing something up. A few square feet
>of gasoline/air will not cause excessive damage, nor will hydrogen/air.
>Pure oxygen would be a different story, as would acetylene/any oxidizer.

I disaggree. The amount of energy depends on the energy density of the
material. That is low for gas mixtures at stp. For which reason one
compresses them first, and then ignites. One cubic feet of gas+air at
stoichiometric proportions and 20at will pack quite a wallop. This is
about the volume in the cylinder of a larger gas powered stationary engine
(at TDC).

Peter

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2004\07\30@225716 by hilip Stortz

picon face
they eventually got some ignition, but not much.  properly done it would
have blown out windows nearby.  they certainly didn't get much of a pop,
and they had to try many times.  these are not researcher types or even
very familiar with special effects explosions.  i new a stunt guy, seems
that for the typical semi trailer "explosion" it was common to use less
than 8 oz. of gasoline for some time.  of course hollywood explosions
are usually just fireballs, and many explosives actually produce a
minimal fireball, some are even designed not to set off methane in
mines.  interestingly at the same time hollywood usually makes most
explosions too small (way, way too small) for the explosive used or for
a missile.  the Plexiglas cube built on myth busters would have been
fairly dangerous, if they had gotten it right.  not that the show isn't
amusing sometimes, but it's hardly well researched and the "experiments"
are often poorly designed.  it took them a long time to get any reaction
when they were trying, which makes the earlier "test" with cell phones
etc. meaningless, though i do doubt that cell phones cause fires or
explosions in the way some people have suggested.

Martin Klingensmith wrote:
>
> Philip Stortz wrote:
>
------
{Quote hidden}

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