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New Technology Aims to Prevent Drunk Driving

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Cars and trucks one day may have built-in blood alcohol detectors, The Wall Street Journal reports. Research on the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) is progressing more quickly than expected, and could be available within eight to 10 years, experts say.

The technology could be built into a vehicle’s dashboard or controls. It would check a driver’s blood alcohol level, and would not start if the level were above the legal limit. Researchers developing the system are working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The next goal would be to develop a commercially produced vehicle that could drive a drunk owner home, the article notes.

About one-third of drivers killed in car crashes have blood alcohol levels of 0.08 or higher, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Devices called alcohol interlocks are already available to disable a car if the driver is intoxicated. They are primarily used for people who have been caught with blood alcohol levels above the legal limit. About 16 states require people convicted of drunk driving to install these devices in their vehicles. Drivers must blow into a tube to verify they are sober before they can start the car.

The new technology being developed would not require blowing into a tube. It could be embedded in a starter button or shift lever.

A proposed federal transportation bill would give the NHTSA’s alcohol detector program $24 million over two years. The funding would allow the agency to equip 100 or more cars with prototypes of the new alcohol detection devices. One device would measure alcohol in the driver’s breath, while the other would take a reading from the driver’s skin.

3 Responses to this article

  1. Susan / April 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    I think more research needs to be done before these are the savior. Most laws passed are passed by people who think like law abiding citizens. The clients I work with openly talk about this device. They can use another vehicle to get around, or have someone else blow into it to get the car started (which is not hard to do) or they can leave it run (not turn it off) if it is a short period of time, drinking from one place to the next. Finally, doesnt stop the person who drugs and drives, which contribute greatly. If there are 16 states now where overdoses on opiates, etc.. are number one killer (not car crashes); there are many drugged and driving, and only alcohol is tested for in a routine stop. There is more work to do here.

  2. Avatar of Dan
    Dan / April 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Since July 2010, four counties in California require convicted DUI offenders to install an interlock device on their vehicle (for 5 months minimum). I can personally say these devices SAVE lives. There’s not much wiggle room with these. They can be so sensitive, that the morning after a night of drinking-it can still detect levels of alcohol on a person’s breath. Levels which could lend a person a second DUI or worse, lead to deadly crash.

    Even if it takes 8-10 years, interlock devices WILL be worth the time and money.

  3. katie / April 4, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    The problem with this is that many people are given prescription drugs that may impair driving. It is possible to start a car and still be impaired. I observed a woman who was so high on her prescription drugs that she could not find her car. Once she found it she could start it.

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