Dennis McDonald, the former Montana Democratic Party chairman is getting desperate. In today's Missoulian, McDonald has decided that Denny Rehberg was drunk, when he was the victim of a boating accident. Now, what does Mr. McDonald use as a basis for this accusation? Clairvoyance? Rank speculation? Or how about pure political flop sweat trying to get some attention for his doomed chances to unseat our Congressman.
First Mr. McDonald uses the pseudos-cientific analysis of an approximate .015% elimination rate of alcohol in the human body. This rate is known as the Beta-Widmark Factor and is useful only in a theoretical sense. Assuming a constant rate of blood alcohol at some period in time, that once you stop drinking the average person will eliminate alcohol at the rate mentioned. But first, some of the problems: Was there a steady level of alcohol at the time drinking stopped? It's not unusual for someone to quickly down their drink right before they leave. Because alcohol doesn't instantly enter the blood stream upon consumption, their BAC would not rise immediately. Sure, some alcohol is added to the blood stream through the mucal linings of the mouth, but this is nearly undetectable. Second, once the alcohol hits the stomach, enzymes in the stomach of a man (sorry ladies, you lack that enzyme) begin to break down the alcohol. After a period of time, the alcohol enters the small intestine where it begins to more effectively enter the blood stream. Depending on stomach contents, this can be anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour or even longer.
At this point, the BAC starts to rise in accordance with the alcohol being processed by the small intestine. This increase follows an arc which is variable between people depending on too many factors to mention here, but suffice to say, that it is a rising arc. This is known as rising alcohol syndrome. You could only effectively measure the rate if you could take accurate readings every five minutes or so, in order to determine the rate of absorption.
At some time after the last drink, the blood alcohol will hit a peak, it's at this time that the Beta-Widmark factor starts to come into play. But again, this is only a rough average for people. It can depend on so many other factors, again to numerous to list that it is impossible to do retrograde extrapolation of what Rehberg's BAC was at the time of the accident.
But even if he was the highest level I have ever seen, which was a .412 BAC (and believe it or not, she seemed only mildly drunk) he was a passenger, otherwise known as A VICTIM! Denny did absolutely nothing wrong. In fact we encourage people who drink not to operate cars or boats, even though it is perfectly legal to drink and drive or boat, so long as their ability to safely operate the vehicle is not impaired. Denny was not operating anything.
But McDonald says that Denny erred in not knowing that Barcus was impaired, and therefore should not have gotten into the boat. Again, the basis for this is pure speculation. First we don't know what the driver's BAC was even now. Assuming for the sake of argument that it was over the legal level (an arbitrary number driven by MADD more than science) there were four other people getting into that boat that night. Are they any less culpable in not determining that the driver might be impaired? According to Mr. McDonald's theory, all of the victims should have recognized the driver was impaired, and yet none did. What does that suggest? One theory is that somehow, the people were coerced into getting into the boat against their will. How preposterous, not to mention an insult added to the injuries of the passengers. Another may be that no one had any concerns about the driver's ability, which seems to be far more plausible.
But how can that be, you say, if it is true that the driver was over the legal limit? In my 12 years of reviewing DUI videos, I have watched over a thousand, and probably closer to two thousand videos of people who were arrested for DUI. Some people seemed inebriated at a very low level (especially young women) and some seemed to be rock steady and perform well on all of the tests except the Intoxilyzer. Determining someone's level of intoxication through visual cues is almost impossible for even trained police officers, which is why they require a breath test verify suspicions. Notice the magic word "suspicions." And that is with people who are trained to detect impaired driving. Ordinary people will never be likely to say that someone is impaired unless they are falling down drunk. Is there any mention of such a "fact?"
This is the desperate ploy of a desperate man running what he knows is a desperate campaign. Take it for what it's worth.