If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a breathalyzer test, you’ve probably wondered if there is any room for error. Especially if you blow over the legal limit of .08, your fleeting hope may be that it was a false reading and that the arresting office has no idea what he’s doing when he’s performing the test. Unfortunately for whomever decides to drink and drive, the breathalyzer test is highly accurate and the police officer is required to pass practical training in order to be certified to perform it. How do they receive practical training on a breathalyzer? With live subjects, of course.
Ellwood Shreve, a journalist from Ontario’s Chatham Daily News, was able to drink on the job recently when he was asked to be a test subject for 15 police officers who needed to obtain 30 live tests on the Intoxilyzer 8000c breathalyzer device. Police grade breathalyzers have fuel-cell technology just like ignition interlock devices, and by testing on live subjects, the police officers can learn the ins and outs of obtaining a proper blood alcohol concentration (BAC). They can also find out what possible ‘cheats’ people might use, like putting your tongue over the end of the tube or inhaling instead of exhaling, to avoid failing.
What did the journalist learn by drinking on the job?
To start, when you are pulled over for suspected drunk driving or you’re stopped at a roadblock, police officers aren’t just looking for a high blood alcohol concentration. They use their training to search for signs of impairment like slurring of speech and the scent of alcohol coming from the vehicle. Even if you don’t fail the breathalyzer test by registering over .08, if you’ve been drinking and driving and show signs of impairment, you will still have your vehicle towed and your license will be suspended for 3 days.
And don’t think that refusing the breathalyzer will get you off free and clear either – if you say no to the a breathalyzer test when the police officer asks you to submit to one, under the Criminal Code of Canada, you’re still subject to the same penalties as someone charged with impaired driving.
As Mr. Shreve found out, Canadian police officers are not only highly trained on breathalyzer equipment, they know exactly what to look for when it comes to picking up signs of impairment. That means that the only mistake made when it comes to getting stopped for drinking and driving was your own decision to get behind the wheel.
This page is also available in: French