Attorney General Bill Lockyer Announces Receipt Of New Grant To Replace Aging Blood Alcohol Analysis Equipment

10 New Units Will Cut Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Analysis Time By Nearly Half

Friday, December 30, 2005
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced the Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) in partnership with the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and other law enforcement agencies will replace older gas chromatograph headspace units used to detect blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels with new ones that will service 39 counties in California.

“Through this grant, my office will be able to analyze blood alcohol levels faster and more accurately,” Lockyer said. “Last year there were 182,673 DUI arrests made in the state. This problem will continue to be a challenge for the state as the population of California continues to grow.”

A gas chromatograph is an instrument used to separate ethanol in the blood from other blood gases, identify what types of blood gases are present, and then quantify the amount of alcohol present in a sample. Forensic laboratories need to analyze many samples of human blood and body fluids for alcohol content. The large number of samples that require quantification of ethanol in these facilities creates a challenge.

Headspace gas chromatography for determination of ethanol content of blood is widely used by forensic labs to test automobile drivers charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence). These instruments have the capacity to double the laboratory throughput and reduce the time to complete analysis by half compared to the aging equipment currently used by BFS.

The Attorney General’s Department of Justice (DOJ) provides an important service in the DUI enforcement system by providing scientific analysis of the breath or blood of a suspect arrested for DUI. Under California law the subject has the right to choose between a blood, breath or urine test. The DOJ annually analyzes approximately 20,000 blood samples for the presence of alcohol, collected from drivers arrested for DUI.

“By reducing the time it takes to analyze blood samples taken in DUI arrests, public safety resources can be more quickly returned to enforcement activities, saving more lives and preventing more injuries," said Sunne Wright McPeak, Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency which oversees the Office of Traffic Safety. "This is another example where innovation in technology plays a key role in the fight against drunk driving.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2004, 442 (21 percent) of the children age 14 and younger who were killed in motor vehicle crashes across the United States were killed in alcohol-related crashes. Of those 442 fatalities, approximately half (220) of those killed were passengers in vehicles with drivers who had been drinking, with BAC levels of .01g/dL (gram per deciliter) or higher. Another 64 children age 14 and younger who were killed in traffic crashes in 2004 were pedestrians or bicyclists who were struck by drivers with BAC .01g/dL or higher. NHTSA also reported California had 1,643 traffic fatalities involving alcohol which represents 40% of the states’ traffic fatalities for 2004.

BFS provides BAC analysis services to the following counties: Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Plumas, Riverside, San Benito, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More information on BFS is available on the Attorney General’s website at http://www.ag.ca.gov/bfs/index.htm .

# # #