Wednesday, October 28, 2020
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Phelps arrested for DUI, take 2


Olympic swimming champion and Baltimore-area resident Michael Phelps, 29, was arrested in the early morning hours of Sept 30 for driving under the influence, the Baltimore Sun and WBAL-TV (NBC affiliate) are reporting.

At about 1:40 AM, Maryland Transportation Authority Police clocked Mr Phelps traveling 84 mph in a 45-mph zone just outside the McHenry Tunnel. They also said he had crossed over a double-yellow line, was driving erratically, and had failed both a field sobriety and breathalyzer test. Test results weren’t reported by the media outlets we read for this story.

Mr Phelps won 22 medals in two Olympic games and retired after the 2012 Olympics. He is, however, starting to show up at swimming practices and may be contemplating a return, which would set his next international meet in Russia during the summer of 2015.

He was arrested in 2004 on a DUI charge, although he accepted a probation sentence before judgment, which means he has never been convicted of DUI and this would be his first offense if he is found guilty.


No words of apology can redeem these actions. Mr Phelps, who has million-dollar endorsement deals and could have easily called a cab or limo to get home last night, exercised poor judgment and put the lives of other drivers and their passengers, who may have been children, in jeopardy.

Representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving have called for an ignition interlock device to be installed, which could prevent the car from starting unless a person blows into the device and has an acceptable blood alcohol level.

I say, you can install all the devices you want. They won’t replace immature and irresponsible actions on the part of people many kids look up to. For me, there’s just no way to save this one.

Briefly, estimated peak blood alcohol concentration

Most states use a legal limit of 0.08 grams of ethanol per deciliter of blood (g/dL). In order to compute a decent estimate for the BAL, therefore, you need to know how many grams of ethanol are in your blood (it’s cleared at the rate of about 0.01 g/dL per hour) and the number of deciliters of blood you have in your body, which is proportional to your body weight.

A formula known as the Widmark formula, or a variation thereof based on the number of “standard drinks” a person has in a specified drinking period, can be used as a model to estimate the BAL:

\textrm{BAL} = \frac{1.2 \times 0.806 \times d}{bw \times m} - (0.017 \times p)

where d is the number of standard drinks (10 grams of ethanol) consumed, bw is the body water constant (0.58 for men and 0.49 for women), m is the person’s mass in kilograms, and p is the drinking period in hours. The other factors are simply used to facilitate numerical conversion from standard drinks to grams of ethanol (1.2), from body mass to deciliters of blood (0.806), and from metabolic rate to time it takes the ethanol to clear (0.017).

It’s important to remember that a “standard drink” refers to the mass of ethanol in it, defined as 10 grams, which would result from about 10 mL. A 12-ounce can of beer with 5 percent alcohol by volume has 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol, or about 18 mL. That would count as 1.8 standard drinks in the formula above.

Analyze the risks of an 88-kg man (Mr Phelps) and a 75-kg woman having a similar drinking experience over two hours. See the Common Core high school modeling descriptions in mathematics, here, for more information.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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