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Anniversary of first DUI arrest was Friday

| Sep 11, 2011 | DUI |

On September 10, 1897, the first person to ever be arrested for driving while intoxicated was taken into custody after crashing into a building with his taxi cab in London. The 25-year-old man, George Smith, was the first person to be charged and later convicted for drunken driving. The man pled guilty. He was fined 25 shillings for the conviction.

These days, DUI charges and convictions in Georgia and around the country still involve fines, as well as court fees and, often, the suspension of a driver’s license. DUI arrests often involve a Breathalyzer device that measures the blood alcohol concentration in a person’s system by measuring the level of alcohol vapors on a person’s breath. A device that would later evolve into the modern Breathalyzer was invented in 1936.


In the U.S., the first laws against drunk driving were passed in New York in 1910. The invention of 1936, the Drunkometer, was the first attempt to measure a blood alcohol concentration of a suspected drunk driver. The invention was made by a professor of biochemistry and toxicology named Dr. Rolla Harger. It involved a person breathing into a balloon-like device.

A more accurate device came in 1953 with the invention of the Breathalyzer. This device was easier to use than its precursor and was invented by a former professor and former police captain, Robert Borkenstein, who had also collaborated on the first device. Still certainly not infallible, improvements have been continually made to the technology in the decades since its invention.

Source: History.com, “Sep 10, 1897: First drunk driving arrest,” The History Channel, Sept. 10, 2011