Driving under the influence (DUI) is a big problem in the United States. Approximately 28 people are killed every day by drunk drivers. The interlock device, which prevents cars from starting if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above a certain level, has proven to be very effective at preventing drunk driving. Research has shown a 70% reduction in arrests for this offense when the device is installed. To avoid the embarrassment that these devices cause, many people who are required to have them also get an interlock cup to disguise the interlock itself.
Ever since the interlock was introduced to the public, people have been trying to fool the machine. It is not enough to hide it with an interlock cup, they want to drive after drinking and get away with it. As a consequence, rumors and myths abound about ways to get around these car breathalyzers. Here are a few such myths:
- Eat spicy or strong smelling foods to fool your interlock cup. The theory is that you go out for some strong curry and the smell overwhelms the device in the interlock cup. Now, the foods you eat may cover the smell of whatever you drank but they will not change the alcohol level in your blood or in your breath. This will have no impact on the reading the interlock device takes.
- Drink a lot of coffee to get that caffeine to fool the interlock cup. There is a saying that all you get when you give someone who is drunk a lot of coffee, all you do is get an awake drunk. The caffeine (and maybe sugar if that is how you take your coffee) may make you perkier and more alert but they will not sober you up nor will they fool a breathalyzer in your car or anywhere else.
- Drink some Zima. This could be one of the most ridiculous ways to try to fool a breathalyzer. Drinking one kind of booze is no different, in terms of the interlock device and the interlock cup, than drinking another. Zima is weaker than some beers and all liquor but it is not going to help you fool a breathalyzer test.
- Use mouthwash before you blow into the machine. That is the second most ridiculous ideas. Most companies recommend you wait after using mouthwash because many of the most effective mouthwashes, such as Listerine, have alcohol in them. If anything, you can test positive after using some mouthwash when you have not been drinking.
- Put a penny under your tongue. People think that if you put a penny under your tongue there is some chemical reaction that occurs that will prevent the sensor from detecting alcohol. This is because of the copper content. First of all, that was a myth and second of all pennies are no longer made of copper. In fact, they have been made of mostly zinc since the 1980s. This method just does not work.
At the end of the day, it is important to know how the alcohol you drank ended up in your breath to begin with. People assume that because they usually drink alcohol, it is there because it was in their mouth and throats but this is not the case. Nearly 90% of the alcohol you drink is processed by the liver and broken down. The remaining alcohol is expelled in your sweat, urine and breath.
The reason for it showing up in your breath is simple. It is absorbed by almost every cell in your body, including those in the lungs. Ethanol, the kind of alcohol you drink, is very volatile. Once it reaches the lungs, it is expelled along with the carbon dioxide and when you blow into your ignition interlock, it will find it.
People have been known to ingest alcohol other ways than drinking it. Women have been known to soak a tampon in booze. One man with stomach problems asked his wife for a sherry enema. The colon absorbs more liquid faster than the stomach and he died. No matter what you eat or drink after the alcohol or what you put in your mouth, you are not going to fool the device in your interlock cup.