How to Beat a Breathalyzer with Peanut Butter … Not!

Your Hump-day Recess: Shocking Truth About YouTube

We’ve learned a lot of things on YouTube. That immensely useful site is where we found videos explaining how to make a Big Mac, how to drive a Model T Ford, and, given its vital importance to humanity, many videos on how to teach your cat to high-five.

However – and you might need to brace yourself for this – not every scrap of information on YouTube is accurate. Our example today is a video entitled How to Beat a Breathalyzer Test.

If you were the type of person who likes to believe what you see, you’d believe that a young woman was doing this:

  1. Testing her sobriety first and registering 0.0
  2. Downing three shots of vodka
  3. Waiting 20 minutes
  4. Testing at .045
  5. Eating 1 spoon of peanut butter and a similar amount of jelly
  6. Drinking a glass of water
  7. Testing at 0.0

You’d then accept some information supplied regarding the sodium content of peanut butter, and how it reacts with the alcohol to evaporate it.

Why How to Beat a Breathalyzer is Bogus

The problem is that it’s all claptrap. A breathalyzer doesn’t measure the alcohol in your mouth; it measures the alcohol in your breath, which comes straight from your lungs. Ethanol is a sneaky little molecule which can slip through all kinds of membranes and end up anywhere in your body. So alcohol in your blood moves to your lungs. An equation is used to correlate the amount of alcohol in the blood and the related amount that ends up on the breath. While this number is not 100% accurate and unvarying from person to person, it’s reliable enough to estimate whether a person is too intoxicated to drive a car.

Nothing you do in your mouth can change the alcohol in your breath. So then why did the breathalyzer measure 0.0 after one spoon of peanut butter?

Here’s a possible guess: the vodka bottle in the video contained nothing but water. One of the cups might have had a very small amount of alcohol – enough to register on the breathalyzer. Afterwards, the glass of water she drank, combined with the food, cleaned her mouth of that trace alcohol.

There could be other explanations too. The machine could be out of whack. It’s easy to fool people if you know the trick. How does this guy do all of this?

What we can’t figure out is why the video was made, other than for the stated purpose of entertainment. We’d like to think that the American Peanut Council is not behind an effort to raise sales to determined drunk drivers.

The lesson here is that breathalyzers and ignition interlocks – devices based on breathalyzers which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – are based on solid, tried-and-true technology. If you’re caught drinking and driving, peanut butter won’t save you.

Or do you really believe everything you see on YouTube?
Your Hump Day Recess: Every Wednesday LifeSafer brings you something a little different, related to the worlds of road safety, to ease your progress over Hump Day and through the week.
Previous Hump Days: a German Ignition Interlock spoof from 1960, our Top 10 Worst Crash Tests, a different kind of Anti-DUI message, Budweiser’s dogged anti-DUI campaign, How Not to Dodge a Parking Ticket, the world’s worst traffic jams, a dramatic buzzed driving PSA , an offbeat ad from New ZealandVince and Larry, our favorite crash test dummies, some excellent Soviet anti-drunk-driving posters, a lesson on how buzzed driving can ruin your love life, South Australia to Drunk Drivers: Grow Up!, a woman calls 911 to report herself for DUI, Felix the Cat and Drunk Driving,  DUIs who crash vintage cars – (ouch!), Woman Unwittingly Creates Self-Driving Car, A Brilliant PSA from Australia, a Road Safety Message in a Vodka Bottle, a PSA about binge drinking that is decidedly “meh,” Drunk Driver Crashes $4 Million Car, Drunk Driving in 1910, a Superb New Think! PSA from the UK,Drunk Driving in 1955: New Breath Test Technology Will Save the Day!, the Best Animated Gifs About Drunk Driving, Angle Parking: A Surreal DUI Stop Photo, a Hertz Advertisement that Could Have Used Another Set of Eyes, and a Laugh Out Loud Anti-Drunk Driving Ad.