Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Pills trick motorists not cops

Alco-Pal claims to help drivers beat the breathalyser. Photo / Michael Craig
Alco-Pal claims to help drivers beat the breathalyser. Photo / Michael Craig

Trial shows 'alcohol masking' tablets dupe buyers, not breath tests

A new product claims to be able to beat the breath test - and to save readers from making a bad mistake, we checked out the claimed checkpoint-cheater.

The vendor of Alco-Pal boasts on its website the pills "could make all the difference" if people are breathalysed after being out to celebrate or "just having a good time".

The advertising claims the pills help reduce the alcohol on breath expelled from lungs. The instruction sheet which comes with the pills describes them as "alcohol masking" tablets.

Ingredients are claimed to be simethicone and Vitamin D3. Simethicone is commonly used in medicinal products to help relieve wind, gas and bloating.

Vitamin D3 is considered useful for health but is more readily available as sunlight.

The Herald on Sunday ordered a bottle of five pills, four pink and one white ($47.14) from the Alco-Pal website.

Our tester drank five bottles of beer over three hours, enough to put him just over the drink-driving limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

As directed, he took two pink tablets and one white tablet 20 minutes before starting to drink. Once he blew over the 0.08 per cent limit, he stopped drinking and took another two pink pills after half an hour.

However, when we breath-tested him again after this time he still blew over the limit.

"Part of me wondered if the pills would really work," he said. "But deep down I knew they wouldn't and I was right.

"The pills did not reduce my breath-test results and I didn't feel sober enough to get behind the wheel."

Superintendent Rob Morgan, acting national manager of road policing, said people should be wary of any products which claimed to fool breath tests. "We are not aware of this (Alco-Pal) product being sold in New Zealand," Morgan said.

"Anyone who considers using these pills risks not only losing their licence but also jeopardising the lives of anyone on the road."

The UK-based sellers of Alco-Pal did not respond to messages from the Herald on Sunday seeking comment.


You can't bamboozle the test

There are plenty of urban myths that many believe can fool the evidential breath test.

In September last year, Kiwi lawyer Douglas Taffs, from Westport, tried to hide the cord of a breath-testing machine in a police station filing cabinet, and then concealed coins in his mouth in a bid to fool the machine. He later admitted to drink-driving.

It is a myth that sticking coins, copper ones in particular, into your mouth will interfere with a breath-testing machine.

Other myths that also claim to beat the machine include sucking on an alkaline battery, licking a piece of tinfoil, eating a spoonful of manuka honey and even having a fresh piece of chewing gum.

None works.

- Herald on Sunday

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