Hot cross buns can fool South African breathalysers into thinking you’re drunk

A new viral video appears to show two Cape Town police officers using hot cross buns to increase their breath alcohol results.

In the video, an officer blows into the breathalyser and is shown to have a reading of 0.00mg – indicating that there is no alcohol in his system.

However, after eating a hot cross bun, the officer’s breathalyser reading is shown as 0.21mg, just below the ordinary legal limit of 0.24mg.

Speaking to BusinessTech, Justice Project South Africa chair, Howard Dembovsky, said that this reading is actually well over the professional driver limit of 0.10mg and would lead to possible jail time.

He added that this is a well-known issue, and that he had been presenting on the flaws of these types of handheld breath alcohol screener systems for several years.

“People don’t realise that these systems are not of evidential quality and that they detect mouth alcohol as breath alcohol,” he said.

“This particular Dräger model is used at roadblocks. The proper evidential breath testing equipment costs twice the amount and is a massive machine.”

Dembovsky warned that this is not the only fault with this type of machine and that some people may be prejudiced if they consume foods that deliver naturally higher ethanol levels which could set off these systems.

When faced with these machines, Dembovsky offered the following two tips:

  • If you have eaten garlic, don’t spray breath-freshener in your mouth as it makes the machines go haywire;
  • If you have been eating food that you suspect has alcohol in it, keep a bottle of water in your car to wash your mouth out before taking the test.

New system

Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande, launched the 2019 Easter road safety campaign on Monday (8 April) at an event in KwaZulu-Natal.

As part of the launch, Nzimande demonstrated the new Evidential Breathalyser Alcohol Test (EBAT) system which will begin being implemented on the country’s roads.

First launched by the Western Cape in 2016, the system aims to combat drunk driving by providing immediate, accurate information on a driver’s intoxication level.

Speaking to BusinessTech, Department of Transport spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, said that the new system is a keystone of the Easter campaign with mobile EBAT offices being rolled out from now until the end of October.

Mnisi said that the department already had four centres in place – including one in KZN and the Western Cape, and two in Gauteng – with plans to open one in every province going forward.

Because the results of an EBAT test are instant the case can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. Below is a brief outline of how it works:

  • The EBAT system uses a machine that can read the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath;
  • When tested, two breath samples must be taken. If the lower of the two EBAT test results is not less than 0,24 mg of alcohol per 1,000 ml of breath, the driver will be charged;
  • The instrument will be fitted with a temperature sensor in the hose to regulate the exhaling breath of the subject.;
  • It is called “evidentiary” as the reading can be produced as evidence to prosecute people accused of drinking and driving. The results are immediate;
  • This machine, the people who operate it, and the location it operates in, must all pass a very specific and demanding set of tests in order to be used to prosecute suspects.

Read: South Africa launches new drunk driving system ahead of Easter – here’s what you need to know

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Hot cross buns can fool South African breathalysers into thinking you’re drunk