Blood Alcohol Content
The purpose of this assignment is to discuss some of the implications of, and need for, careful data handling.
As you reflect on the following specific situation and questions, consider issues, questions, and concerns that you have regarding the nature of the measurement. Discuss them in a small group and be prepared to present then to a large group.
Suppose a person who is suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol (DWI) has blood withdrawn for purposes of doing a blood alcohol content (BAC) test. Five people independently run the BAC test from portions of the same original sample and acquire the following results: as a trained assistant, you get a reading of 0.078% BAC, while a nurse gets 0.07%, a resident intern gets 0.0713%, a laboratory technician obtains a reading of 0.08%, and the head MD (doctor) gets a 0.09%.
1. What should be reported as the BAC for this individual? Explain fully how you arrived at your answer.
2. Give several reasons why five trained individuals might come up with different readings.
3. Should the individual be presumed to be under the influence of alcohol
under Rhode Island law? Explain why or why not.
In order to comply with federal standards, HB 5452 / SB 249 makes driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 a crime rather than a civil offense. Failure to enact such legislation this year would have resulted in the loss of $17 million in federal transportation funds earmarked for new highway safety programs. Previous law already prohibited driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08, but driving with a level between .08 and .10 was not a criminal act. Three years ago, lawmakers lowered the legal limit to .08, but as a civil offense unless the case involved death or serious injury.
The legislation also increases the penalties for drunken driving, retaining a distinction between .08 and .10 cases on the penalty end. A driver with a blood-alcohol level of at least .08 but less than .10 would be punished by a fine of $100 to $300, 10 to 60 hours of community service, and/or up to a year in jail. The license suspension would be one to six months. A driver with a level of at least .10 but less than .15 would be punished by a fine of $100 to $400, 10 to 60 hours of community service, and/or up to a year in jail. The license suspension would be three to six months.
[MHS Chemistry page]