An assessment of falsely convicted
type 1 diabetics in Jamaica by using
the breathalyzer test
Tazhmoye V. Crawford
Objective: The close similarity between the symptoms of alcohol intoxication and low blood glucose levels makes it difficult for breathalyzers to make the distinction between a diabetic and an individual who is driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or driving while intoxicated (DWI). In Jamaica, it is illegal if a personâ€™s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is ≥ 35 microgram per 100 milliliter of breath on the breathalyzer and the intoxilyzer devices. The aim of the present study was to examine the extent to which the breathalyzer test provided false blood alcohol measurements in persons with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Design: The purposive and snowball sampling methods were used to collect information from motorists who were accused and charged by the police for DUI/DWI. Data was collected during the period from 2007-2009, from respondents at the St. Andrew Traffic Court, at their work stations and other convenient locations. The data were stored and analyzed by using SPSS version 17.0.
Results: Of the 53 respondents, 73.6% were of type 1 diabetes mellitus status and 53.8% were those who were suspected by the police to be DUI/DWI and hence, the breathalyzer test resulted in 42.9% of the respondents showing a reading of ≥ 35 microgram per 100 millilitre of breath. The findings showed a correlation (χÂ² = 0.75) between the respondents with type 1 diabetes mellitus and wobbly (41.7%) and faintish/dizzy (20.8%) equilibrium when examined by the police. There was a high association between the diabetics who were unlikely to consume alcohol and those who were unlikely to be DUI/DWI (C = 0.725, P < 0.01, α = 0.01). The respondents of type 2 diabetes were 14 (26.4%), of which 8 failed the breathalyzer examination and were subjected to a blood test.
Conclusions: Motorists with type 1 diabetes mellitus, who were subjected to a breathalyzer examination, were charged and they faced the court for being accused of DUI/DWI. The ignorance of the police officers and the respondents on this matter can result in similar repeated cases of this nature.