Local News

Feb 6, 2010 2:27 AM by Danielle Lerner

CHP worries personal breathalyzers could encourage people to drink and drive

Superbowl Sunday is nearly here and local authorities want to make sure you avoid a not-so-super situation.

The CHP says Superbowl Sunday is one of the most dangerous days to drive.

During the 2008 Superbowl nearly half of the fatal crashes were from drinking and driving.

Last year the number of fatal crashes was three times higher than on other days throughout the year, 11 people were killed in California alone.

Now, one product is causing concern for local law enforcement.

You may have seen it before, a $15 personal breathalyzer.

Officers worry it will encourage people to get behind the wheel who should not.

So, KSBY News put its accuracy to the test and what we learned along the way, could save lives.

To see just how accurate personal breathalyzers are we took the keys and asked two KSBY employees to start their Superbowl celebration a bit early.

After one glass of wine and about 30 minutes, Lauren, who weighs about 115 pounds, blew into a personal breathalyzer.

It registered a .05 and as it turns out, the test from a CHP-administered breathalyzer yielded similar results.

"You're reading came up at .043 which puts you under the legal limit, however depending on your condition and how you perform on your field sobriety tests, the other things we do will determine whether or not you're still under the influence," said Bill Vail of the CHP.

Then it was Todd's turn.

He weighs about 220 pounds and drank two glasses in 30 minutes.

His personal test showed yellow, which means at or below .05.

The CHP's test confirmed that reading and showed how alcohol affects different body types in different ways.

"Right now you're at a .037 so because of your body type and the amount of alcohol you have you're registering very close to her, but because of her body size it absorbs quicker into her blood stream," said Vail.

As the drink count went up, so did the readings on both breathalyzers.

While the personal breathalyzer was accurate, officers say it should not give drinkers the green light to drive.

After all, you can still be under the influence even if you are under the legal limit.

"After a glass of wine we could see some of the things coming out in her that weren't there when we first started," said Vail. "So even at a .04, .05, with her she was getting borderline to where she probably couldn't operate a vehicle fairly well."

Of course officers say the best way to avoid becoming a statistic is to always have a designated driver.

That is exactly what we did with our two KSBY employees, both got rides home.

The Santa Maria Police Department will be on the lookout for drunk drivers this Superbowl weekend.

Police are holding a sobriety and driver's license checkpoint somewhere in the city beginning Saturday at 6 p.m. And ending at 1 a.m. Sunday.

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