How to Avoid a DUI


Urban Myths and Reality

I only had two beers, and those after I ate a large meal. A mint or two, extra care to obey every traffic law on the way home, and I have nothing to worry about.

How to Avoid a DUI


This is a delusion too many indulge in for the sake of convenience.

Driving is a dangerous business under the best circumstances; any risk of even the slightest impairment should be avoided at all times. While I may be willing to risk my life and limb on my ability to drive after having had a drink or two, I should never risk others’ lives on that faith.

Even if I hurt no one, should I encounter a DUI checkpoint or get pulled over by a police officer who then suspects that I have been drinking, no force of will, no mint, mouthwash, or any other breath freshener will fool a breathalyzer. The meal I ate might make me feel less drunk, and the mints might mask the scent of beer on my breath, but a breathalyzer does not measure odors—it measures the alcohol content in breath from air deep in our lungs. If that test suggests that I have a blood alcohol concentration at or above the legal limit, I am going to be arrested regardless of how sober I feel, or how carefully I was driving.

What can I do to make sure I pass a breathalyzer test?

Some suggestions from the Web include drinking mouthwash, eating a lot of onion or garlic, and sucking on a penny. None of it works, and drinking mouthwash may only serve to make you sick and possibly make the breathalyzer record a breath alcohol concentration slightly higher than it would have without the mouthwash, since most mouthwashes include alcohol in their ingredients. So what can drivers do to avoid failing a breathalyzer test? The only reliable solution is to abstain from drinking before driving.

Fine, I can’t trick a breathalyzer. What can I do to avoid taking a breath test in the first place?

Most solutions proposed on the Web focus on tactics designed to help a person “sober up.” Suggestions like taking a cold shower and drinking hot coffee are popular, because the shock of cold water and the caffeine boost help make a person feel less affected by alcohol.

If I feel sober, I must be sober—or at least sober enough. Right?

By now this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but no, that’s not correct. It turns out that, in general, humans are very bad at accurately judging our impairment after drinking. I may feel fine, maybe even completely confident in my sobriety, but that perception is subjective. When put to the test, my reaction times, decision-making skills, and motor functions will be impaired according to the amount of alcohol in my blood, regardless of how clear-headed I feel.

Abstinence is the only sure way to avoid a DUI charge.

The simple truth is that alcohol impairs our ability to drive safely, and that modern tests will not be fooled by any trick one might find on the Web. Avoid a DUI charge—or, worse, a crash that hurts or kills someone—don’t drink and drive.

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