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New Technology Looks to Prevent Drunk Driving
New Technology Looks to Prevent Drunk Driving

New Technology Looks to Prevent Drunk Driving - Kush Arora -



Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that boils down to 30 fatalities every day due to driving under the influence of alcohol. While it is true that drunk driving fatalities have diminished within the last 30 years, this is still a widespread issue that individuals and organizations across the United States are looking to remedy.


Since the initial fight against drunk driving in the mid-90s, there has been significant headway in the form of federal regulation, law enforcement training, and proactive education to prevent impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel. Now, automakers  are partnering with public organizations to introduce new smart technology that will be added directly into new vehicles. The goal of this type of technology is to stop a person under the influence from even turning on his or her vehicle.


The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety


One of the most noteworthy technological strides being made to combat impaired driving is from a public-private partnership called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). This device – which is currently being field-tested – could be installed in any new vehicle, and functions similarly to an ignition interlock device (IID). However, while an IDD is enforced for those already convicted of a DUI, it cannot stop a driver who has never been convicted.


On the other hand, the DADSS alcohol detection breathalyzer could be installed in any driver’s vehicle. This device contains a passive alcohol sensor that can discern a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) by measuring the ambient air in the vehicle. If the device determines that a driver is over a certain threshold, it could prohibit the vehicle from starting.


According to a 2009 survey of U.S. drivers conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), nearly two-thirds of respondents said they would support the installation of a similar system in all vehicles, as long as they were fast, accurate, and unobtrusive.


Impact on DUI Crashes and Fatalities


The IIHS applied risk calculations for alcohol-impaired driving to the total amount of fatal crashes in the U.S, recorded from the year2015 to 2018. At a BAC level of .09 – .01 above the legal limit in all 50 states – a driver from the ages of 16 to 21 is 60 times as likely to die in a crash as a sober driver of the same age. For ages 22 to 34, a fatality is 21 times as likely.


As a whole, 37,636 fatal auto accidents between 2015-2018 could have been prevented if the impaired driver’s BAC was below .08. With the implementation of the DADSS alcohol detection sensor and other similar systems, it seems likely that countless lives could be saved. However, it would take around 12 years before systems like DADSS became common enough in the U.S to save 4,600 lives a year, which is only less than half of their estimated potential.


Technology Implementation through Federal Regulation


The fastest way to get alcohol detection systems into vehicles is through federal regulation. In late 2019, senators Tom Udall (D) from New Mexico and Rick Scott (R) from Florida planned to introduce bipartisan legislation that would mandate every new car sold to feature these systems. The proposed legislation would ask for the technology to be factory-installed in every new car within four years of the bill’s passing. If a bill were to pass this year, all cars could include this detection technology by 2024. With the current field testing in full swing, it is likely the technology will be fully functioning by that point.


While they may have decreased in recent decades, drunk driving accidents show no signs of stopping. As quickly as technology advances, it certainly takes longer for it to be adopted by the public. Just as seatbelts were, at one point, not included in every vehicle, alcohol detective devices have yet to become the norm – despite their inherent value. However, with more testing, further advancements, and increased education, these systems will likely soon be seen as essential.


New Technology Looks to Prevent Drunk Driving - Kush Arora -

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