ORADEA, Romania— — A Romanian police officer demonstrated how alcohol vapors from hand sanitizer can result in a driver’s blood alcohol content registering over the legal limit.
Octavian Pertea, an officer from the city of Oradea who works for the police department in Bihor county, filmed the experiment and shared it on his YouTube channel in October.
In the video, Pertea performs a breathalyzer test before getting into his car, which showed his blood alcohol content as zero. The officer then enters the car and pretends to be a civilian who has been pulled over during the coronavirus pandemic, putting on his face mask and using a gel sanitizer to clean his hands and legal documents.
Pertea then takes a breathalyzer test that registers his blood alcohol content as 0.2 mg/l, which is over the limit for a nation where it is illegal to drive after drinking any amount of alcohol. A second test comes back showing his blood alcohol level at 0.16 mg/l.
“Be very careful how much alcohol you consume when you disinfect yourself and what products you use because you risk making a few trips to the police station,” Pertea says in the footage.
The officer goes on to recommend that drivers disinfect their hands before getting into their cars or use non-alcoholic disinfectants. He also advises motorists who get pulled over to request the collection of biological blood samples to more accurately determine their blood alcohol levels.
“Be very careful. We are obliged to take this value into account anyway, even if you show us the bottle with alcohol that you have just disinfected yourself with,” he says. “If you are sure that you have not consumed alcohol, we will take you to the nearest hospital unit to determine the exact blood alcohol level.”
Pertea’s experiment comes after a man was prosecuted in Turkey for drunk driving earlier this year despite claiming he had not been drinking alcohol.
Mehmet Kabatas was confident there would be no problem when he was stopped by police in the Gulyali district of Ordu on June 28. Thus, he was shocked when an alcohol meter detected a blood alcohol content of 0.27%. Despite going to a nearby hospital, where a blood test confirmed he had no alcohol in his system, Kabatas faced a fine and had his license suspended for six months.
He now believes the mix-up stemmed from his use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer he had used for protection from COVID-19 shortly before getting pulled over.
In Romania, a value greater than 0.0 g/l and less than 0.4 g/l of alcohol in the blood can be punishable with a fine and a six-month license suspension. Those found to have an amount greater than 0.4 g/l can expect to face a fine or one to five years in jail.
(Edited by Carlin Becker and Fern Siegel)