While breathalyzers are considered to be reliable tests for blood alcohol levels, they may return false positive results for people who have diabetes. Diabetics may be falsely charged with drunk driving charges because breathalyzers mistake acetone on their breath with ethylene glycol. Police officers may also believe that drivers who are showing the symptoms of low blood sugar are intoxicated when they are actually having medical emergencies. A Minneapolis DWI attorney recommends that diabetic drivers who have not been drinking tell the officers who pull them over for DWI that they have diabetes and request blood tests instead of breathalyzers.
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Why Breathalyzers Give False Positives for People With Diabetes
Diabetes is a common condition, affecting between 15 to 20 percent of people. The incidence of the disease has increased, meaning that there are now more people on the roads who have it. When drivers with diabetes suffer from low blood sugar, they experience ketoacidosis. This state involves the production of acetones that are measurable in the breath. Many breathalyzers rely on infrared lights to give their results, and the lights look for the presence of methyl groups, which are present in ethyl alcohol. Acetone also contains methyl groups and consequently may lead to breathalyzer results that indicate that diabetic drivers are drunk even when they haven’t drunk any alcohol at all.
When diabetics suffer from hypoglycemia, they may initially have symptoms that are similar to those demonstrated by intoxicated people. When blood glucose levels drop, people may have confusion, slurred speech, poor coordination, dizziness and blurred vision. This may lead them to weave or swerve on the road and officers to pull them over. When the officers then ask the drivers to perform the standardized sobriety tests, the people often fail because of their loss of coordination. In an article that was published in 2003 in the journal Medical and Toxicological Information Review, a doctor stated that low blood glucose levels are often confused with drunk driving in the nation and may be involved in accidents in addition to DWIs. In addition to diabetes, others may also suffer from hypoglycemia sometimes, including people who are on low-carbohydrate diets or who have been fasting.
People who have the symptoms of hypoglycemia should pull over as soon as they start feeling bad. A Minneapolis DWI attorney believes that law enforcement agencies should be educated about diabetes and how it might be confused with drunk driving.