Ignition interlock technology has rapidly gained popularity within court systems nationwide as a way to hold convicted drunk drivers accountable when they are once again granted driving privileges.
But government researchers want to take it a step further. They are looking to implement alcohol detection systems that would be available in vehicles for an added upfront fee. While it wouldn’t be mandatory (yet) and drivers would have to pay extra, researchers say many drivers would welcome the opportunity to purchase technology that could save them a lot of heartache – and money.
The two systems being developed by the government-funded Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADDS) focuses on detection of a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration through either breath or touch.
The breath system would analyze a driver’s impairment level by measuring the driver’s breath through sensors mounted somewhere in front of the driver. The motorist would never have to blow into a device or have a clunky piece of equipment taking up space on the dash board. The system would halt ignition of the vehicle or, alternately, alert the driver if his or her blood-alcohol level was deemed too high.
The standard level would likely be set somewhere under the legal limit of 0.08.
Another possible system users could purchase in newer model vehicles would be touch detection. This system would screen for a driver’s alcohol impairment by measuring the amount of alcohol apparent through the skin. Motorist would need only to touch some designated surface in the vehicle, and his or her blood-alcohol levels would be determined with an infrared light scanner.
Researchers say release of this technology to the market could take between five and eight years. They are focusing on making it not only fast and user-friendly, but also durable. It needs to be functional and accurate throughout the life of the vehicle.
That could be a challenge, considering current breathalyzer models – those used by police as well as the ignition interlock systems – have to be calibrated regularly in order to maintain their accuracy.
Developers are confident they will be able to achieve this goal.
Driving safety advocates with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and others are highly supportive of the technology, and hope one day it will come standard in all vehicles – not just as a special feature for those that choose to pay for it.
Most government estimates put the number of drunk driving victims at approximately 10,000 annually. That figure has remained stubborn over the last decade, even while the overall number of traffic deaths has dropped significantly.
The CEO of the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety was quoted in USA Today as stating this kind of technology represents the beginning of a world where drunk driving is no longer a major concern.
It still seems a long way off.
In Florida, MADD reports in 2014, there were 40,700 drunk driving arrests, but only 26,300 convictions. That same year, nearly 700 people were killed in drunk driving wrecks. Among those nearly 41,000 arrested, nearly 12,000 were five-time repeat offenders.
These are the drivers that are rarely deterred by other methods of curbing drunk driving – the license suspension, the fines, the jail time, etc. By making drunk driving a virtual impossibility, we deprive them of the choice to put others lives and well-being at risk.
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New car tech could stop drunk drivers, July 6, 2015, By Becca Smouse, USA Today
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Mathis v. Huff & Puff Trucking – Proving Injuries and Causation, June 30, 2015, Broward Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog