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Diabetes may cause inaccurate breath test readings

A breath test, given to someone suspected of driving under the influence, is used to measure blood alcohol content, or BAC. The breath test is performed using a small, lightweight device called a breathalyzer. If you are stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, a police officer may ask you to blow into this device continuously for five seconds or longer to test deep lung air.

The result is often given as the main evidence in court to show the driver had a BAC level that exceeded the legal limit. However, diabetes, along with other health issues, could cause an inaccurately high breathalyzer reading, resulting in a DUI charge. Here are three things you can do to help make sure this doesn't happen to you.

Understand the problems with breath tests.

Breath analysis devices are not perfect. Test results can be affected by something as simple as poor calibration or by electronic interference, such as radio transmissions in a patrol car. In addition, most breathalyzers are programmed to assume that the people being tested share the same traits, an assumption that often leads to inaccuracies.

Test subjects may have a variety of traits that affect BAC results. For example, someone who has asthma may use an inhaler, which discharges a mist containing a certain amount of alcohol. Because the alcohol remains in the lung lining, it is exhaled into the breathalyzer and the result may be a high BAC reading. If you have diabetes, you are likely to have a high level of acetone in your system, and in breath testing, this can be falsely identified as ethanol. Since a breathalyzer is programmed to identify levels of ethanol, which is found in alcoholic beverages, someone with diabetes may fail the breath test.

Be careful with alcohol.

One safety measure you can take as a driver is to be smart about drinking. Alcohol interacts with the medications you take for diabetes and will affect your blood glucose levels. Test your blood sugar level before drinking an alcoholic beverage; if it is low, introducing alcohol into your system could lead to insulin shock. At the very least, drinking too much may make you feel sleepy or dizzy, and you should not get behind the wheel of a car in this condition. Your health professional can advise you on just how much alcohol you can tolerate, and sometimes that means no alcohol at all.

Keep proof about your diabetes.

It is a good idea to keep medical records on hand to provide proof that you have diabetes. You could also wear a wristband or another kind of personal ID that confirms your medical condition. Of course, you do not want to go through the anxiety of being stopped by a police officer on suspicion of drunk driving. However, if this should happen to you, be aware that attorneys experienced in handling DUI cases are ready to stand by you and protect your rights.

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