When you are sitting in your dorm, you may welcome company from other students on your floor. After all, college students in Wisconsin and across the country love to swap stories and dole out advice. If someone tells you to put a penny in your mouth after a night on the town, though, you would be wise to be skeptical.
The Badger State has some tough penalties for operating a vehicle while impaired. To avoid these penalties, many students have theories about tricking OWI breath tests. A common one involves sucking on a penny or other loose change. This does not work, of course.
The nature of urban legends
By now, the sucking-on-a-penny trick has reached urban legend status. Like most urban legends, this one has some basis in fact. Indeed, when OWI breath tests were in their infancy, testing devices measured alcohol residue in a person’s mouth. Zinc, copper and other metals that are common in coins could interfere with the measurement.
The nature of modern OWI breath tests
OWI breath testing has come a long way in recent years. Now, rather than measuring alcohol residue in the mouth, these tests check blood alcohol concentration using the lungs. This makes sense, as the lungs have close involvement with air and blood exchange. According to reporting from Medical News Today, metals in your mouth have no effect on the alcohol content in your breath sample.
Ultimately, while there is no harm in swapping stories with your college friends, knowing a penny cannot save you from an OWI arrest should help you make better decisions.