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Designated drivers may be tested for alcohol with new patch

An Illinois resident who has volunteered to be the designated driver for a night out with friends may find it challenging to refrain from alcohol consumption. If the designated driver slips up and has a few drinks, the mistake could lead to a car accident, DUI charges or both.

Designated drivers may soon be tested for alcohol intake with a simple patch worn on the skin. A company called DermaTec has created a new product called ONUSBlue that can detect alcohol in a person's sweat. If a person drinks alcohol while wearing the patch, the patch will change color after about 40 minutes. DermaTec hopes that designated drivers will wear the ONUSBlue so that other people can make sure the drivers haven't consumed any alcohol.

When DermaTec is able to get its alcohol-detection patch mass-produced, the company plans to market it to bars, restaurants and other businesses that serve alcohol. A co-founder of DermaTec said that the company is encouraging people to drink responsibly, not to refrain from alcohol entirely. New Mexico, where DermaTec was founded, has some of the highest drunk driving rates in the country.

Detecting the presence of alcohol is less precise than measuring a person's blood-alcohol content. When police officers use breath or blood tests to measure a person's BAC level, they are looking for a reading of .08 percent or higher so that they can file DUI charges. If a person has a BAC level that is lower than .08 percent, the person can argue that they were not legally intoxicated. Even if a BAC test showed that a person was legally intoxicated, a criminal defense attorney may be able to establish that the test results were inconsequential because they were within a margin of error.

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