1938: Cops in Indianapolis put the drunkometer to its first practical New Year’s Eve test as a breath analyzer. It proves a success.
The drunkometer, which some of you older imbibers might remember from when the cop made you breathe into a balloon, was invented by Dr. Rolla N. Harger, an Indiana University biochemist, in 1931. He patented his device in 1936 and helped draft the act that made it the legal method for helping establish blood-alcohol level.
Harger’s drunkometer, a model of simplicity, was the first tool to successfully measure alcohol levels using breath analysis. The subject being tested blew into a balloon. The captured air was then mixed with a chemical solution, which changed color if alcohol was present. The darker the solution became, the more alcohol contained in the breath.
From there, the level of alcohol in the person’s bloodstream was estimated using a mathematical formula, which Harger also developed. As he pushed for his patent, Harger also pushed to outlaw drunk driving, which, in the wake of Prohibition’s end, was becoming more than a nuisance.
Simple as it was, Harger’s device had been a long time coming. Attempts to measure alcohol levels by measuring breath content date back to the late 1700s. Prior to the drunkometer, the only effective method was through the direct testing of blood or urine samples. While effective, both methods were cumbersome and costly — not to mention completely irrelevant in terms of preventing trouble. The beauty of Harger’s method was that police could pull drunk drivers off the road before an accident occurred.
Inebriation is apparently a subject of some interest in Indiana. In 1954, the breathalyzer, the tool that eventually replaced Harger’s drunkometer, was invented there by Dr. Robert Borkenstein, a laboratory technician with the Indiana State Police.
No device can measure actual intoxication, however, since a variety of factors determine how alcohol affects individual drinkers. Hence the expressions hollow leg and cheap drunk.
Ultimo dell’anno del 1938, la polizia di Indianapolis inaugura il test col palloncino per individurare le persone “DUI” (Driving Under Influence, come chiamano la guida in stato di ebbrezza negli States).
Fine della pacchia guys!