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Do drink mixers impact breath test results?

Oftentimes, people will casually socialize by going out for a drink with friends or ordering a cocktail with dinner. In these situations, people do the responsible thing by limiting their alcohol intake in order to drive home safely. However, a recent study suggests that what people order may have more of an impact on their level of intoxication than they think.

According to a report from Scientific American, having a drink that contains diet pop could impact breath test readings. In fact, when those surveyed consumed an alcoholic drink mixed with diet soda, their Breathalyzer readings registered an average of 18 percent higher than those who had a beverage mixed with regular, sugary soda.

In addition to inflated breath-test readings, drinking diet pop with alcohol can also affect physical abilities differently. Those who consumed one drink with a diet mixer recorded slower reaction times than those who had a drink mixed with sugary pop. This, of course, could impact coordination and cause a person to have difficulty with a field sobriety test. A failed sobriety test could ultimately fuel charges for driving under the influence.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of this study was that people who consumed diet soda didn't perceive themselves to be any more intoxicated than those who had regular soda. This feeling, of course, is inconsistent with measures of coordination and breath tests. As such, people who have limited their drinking and feel well enough to drive could unintentionally get behind the wheel when they are actually over the legal limit.

Keeping this study in mind, it's understandable that a person could make a mistake and face DUI charges. For first-time offenders caught up in this situation could still face serious consequences, however. As such, it may be helpful to consider the totality of circumstances when dealing with drunk driving charges.

Source: Scientific American, "Diet Soda Mixers Up Breathalyzer Readings," Sophie Bushwick, Jan. 14, 2014

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