There are a lot of myths out there about how to beat a breathalyzer test. We thought we had heard them all, but one Iowa City man proved us wrong early this month.
Around 3 a.m. on the morning of November 1 (after an extra hour of Halloween shenanigans thanks to the Daylight Savings shift), police responded to the scene of a driver going the wrong way down a road. He was incoherent, having no idea that he’d done anything wrong nor what bar he was coming from. When prompted, he admitted to having two drinks and was arrested.
At the station, he initially refused a breathalyzer, before he had a eureka moment: if he ate some toilet paper, surely the breathalyzer would be fooled. He then blew a .165, wiping away any chances of avoiding DUI charges.
To top it off, he was dressed in a flasher costume, and we’re not talking about the kind on top of a police car.
Beat the Breathalyzer Myths
So, toilet paper can’t help you beat a breathalyzer. TP is definitely an unconventional choice, but there are a bunch of things people will try to put in their mouths or swallow to trick the test. Here is a list of things that won’t help you, despite pervasive myths:
- Pennies. This is the big one. People think that the copper alloy on pennies can throw off breathalyzer readings if you put them in your mouth before the cop reaches your window. First of all, there is no science to support that notion. Second, pennies have been made of 97.5 percent zinc since 1982, so even if copper helped a little, the tiny amount of copper would do even less. Third…do you really want to put money in your mouth? Do you know where those pennies have been?
- Breath fresheners, like mints. Some people think breathalyzers are sniffing your breath, and thus fresh breath can beat the breathalyzer. That is not how breathalyzers work. Older breathalyzers measure a chemical reaction between breath alcohol and a vial inside the machine; newer ones use infrared light to detect breath alcohol. The machine isn’t smelling your breath. On that note, mouthwash is another breath-refreshing substance that you don’t want to use to trick the machine. Mouthwash usually contains alcohol, so you are only making matters worse.
- Garlic, curry or other strong-scented foods. For the same reason as breath fresheners, these will do you no good in fooling a breathalyzer. If anything, they’ll just make the police and your potential cellmates unhappy.
- Hyperventilating, exercising and holding your breath. Now, this one is interesting, because there are studies showing that actually, hyperventilation and vigorous exercise can lower BAC readings by as much as 10 percent. Holding your breath can reduce it by as much as 20 percent. However, the police will probably ask you why you are doing jumping jacks or burpees when you step out of the vehicle, and holding your breath is pretty suspicious too. Another breathing-related tactic is to inhale instead of blow – but the police know about that one, and will often put up a hand to make sure you are blowing in the right direction.