Ignition interlock devices have been a breakthrough for prevention of drunk driving by requiring them for certain offenders. These in-vehicle breathalyzer devices require the user to blow into a machine to ensure the driver is not impaired before the ignition will start. But the only work for the period of time in which they are installed. And of course, not all those who drive drunk have been arrested yet.
Now, a government-funded research organization is developing new forms of technology that would come standard in all motor vehicles to help prevent drunk driving.
The organization, Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), is working to develop the next generation of anti-drunk driving systems that will not only screen drivers for alcohol impairment, they will come standard in every car. That’s the hope, anyway.
The first approach involves breath detection. The system would measure alcohol levels based on a driver’s breath, and it would do so from sensors that are mounted in front of the driver’s seat. The driver wouldn’t even necessarily need to do anything, such as blow into a device. The sensors would simply detect it automatically.
The second approach involves detecting alcohol through one’s skin. The system would test drivers’ blood-alcohol concentration levels when they touched an ignition button (or some other designated surface). The device would measure the amount of alcohol under the skin using an infrared scanner.
Researchers and safety advocates applaud these developments, saying unlike those of the past, these would not be invasive or embarrassing. They would come standard in all vehicles, and could serve to significantly slash the number of drunk driving fatalities on Florida roads.
MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) reports an average of 10,000 people die every year as a result of drunk driving accidents.
The DADDS research, which is conducted by engineers, was formulated with input from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, which represents auto manufacturers across the country.
The technology, they say, is slated to be ready for standard use within the next eight years or so. Of course, this will add cost additional money for the systems, and it’s likely not all manufacturers will be on board. After all, there is no federal standard requiring such a feature or equipment be installed. But it can be marketed to consumers as an attractive option to let them know immediately if they shouldn’t be driving.
It’s plausible these systems could potentially take the place of ignition interlock systems, which are court-ordered following a DUI conviction.
In Florida, while judges do have the option of imposing ignition interlocks on first-time offenders, it’s not mandatory until at least the second offense.
Safety advocates insist this leaves a major gap in accountability from people who have been shown to drive drunk. Having this technology come standard would significantly reduce the chances that someone would continue to put others’ lives at risk. It would also help to curb those instances in which individuals may be on the fence about driving. Maybe they feel “fine” but in fact, are just over the legal limit.
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New Car Tech Could Stop Drunk Drivers, July 6, 2015, By Becca Smouse, USA Today
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