According to, citing a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 1.5 million people are arrested for driving under the influence in any given year. While some individuals driving under the influence are easier for law enforcement officers to spot than others based on visual cues such as having a hard time keeping their vehicle in its lane, anyone pulled over for suspected drinking and driving is administered a field sobriety test which includes the use of a device created right here in Indiana — the breathalyzer.

An Early Version of the Breathalyzer was Created by a Professor at Indiana University


According to McGill University's Office of Science and Society, the early form of the breathalyzer as we know it today was created by Dr. Rolla N. Harger, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine in 1931. This early version, which Harger called the "Drunkometer" (which sounds more like a carnival game) used a chemical compound called, "acidified potassium permanganate" to determine if someone had been drinking. When the compound reacted with the alcohol in a person's breath, it would turn purple. The darker the purple, the more alcohol the person consumed.

Harger received a patent on his Drunkometer in 1936, and in 1938, the Indianapolis Police field tested it on New Year's Eve. No word on how many people ended up in handcuffs or rang in the new year in the old drunk tank that night.

The Evolution of the Drunkometer into the Breathalyzer

Drunk Driver being pulled over by police cops with copy-space.

While Harger certainly got the ball rolling, it was another Indiana man who gave us the breathalyzer as we know it today. 15 years after the first successful test runs, Ft. Wayne native Robert F. Borkenstein, who had worked with Harger on the development of the Drunkometer, according to a 2002 New York Times article announcing his passing at the age of 89, tinkered with the concept and replaced the acidified potassium permanganate with potassium dichromate, and added photometer. The combination gave a more accurate blood-alcohol reading and smaller, making it easier for officers to use in the field.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Drunk Driving

It would be impossible to determine how many drunk driving-related deaths have been prevented thanks to the invention of the breathalyzer, but you have to think the possibility it has prevented some by getting intoxicated drivers off the roads certainly exists. And, that is all thanks to two men from right here in the Hoosier State.

[Sources: Only In Your StateMcGill University's Office of Science and Society / New York Times]

LOOK: Best Beers From Every State

To find the best beer in each state and Washington D.C., Stacker analyzed January 2020 data from BeerAdvocate, a website that gathers user scores for beer in real-time. BeerAdvocate makes its determinations by compiling consumer ratings for all 50 states and Washington D.C. and applying a weighted rank to each. The weighted rank pulls the beer toward the list's average based on the number of ratings it has and aims to allow lesser-known beers to increase in rank. Only beers with at least 10 rankings to be considered; we took it a step further to only include beers with at least 100 user rankings in our gallery. Keep reading to find out what the best beer is in each of the 50 states and Washington D.C.

More From WBKR-FM