Drunk Driving Prevention Sensors in Cars

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Drunk Driving Prevention Sensors in Cars

“Don’t drink and drive,” is probably one of the first lessons stressed in driver’s education and by parents. Yet we can’t stress enough how there hasn’t been much change to our systems to decrease the numbers of deaths, injuries and losses from the consequences of drunk driving.

Drunk driving is a major problem around the world, but did you know that each year in America, drunken driving claims more than 10,000 lives and costs the U.S. approximately $199 billion? Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities account for more than one-third of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States. It’s tragic that in 2013 alone, 17 percent of the fatalities among children age 14 and younger occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.

Touch & Breath Sensors to Prevent Drunk Driving

Autoliv Development—a Swedish automotive technology company developed a breath-based system, which allows drivers to enter a vehicle and breathe as they normally would. The breath is pulled into sensors located in the driver’s-side door or steering column where an infrared light is then directed at the molecules in the breath. Carbon dioxide and alcohol molecules absorb different amounts of light, which allows the sensors to compare and measure precise levels at even small concentrations.

The touch-based system reads the driver’s blood alcohol level by shining a light onto the finger via the ignition or gear shift. This technology works in less than a second as confirmed by federal officials. If either reads more than .08—the legal limit—the car will not start.

Once the technology is developed and available to the market, different settings will be available for junior drivers (for which no amount of alcohol in the blood is legal), commercial vehicles, bus drivers and other specialized drivers. It will be available for purchase as if one would purchase an Emergency Brake Assist or Lane Departure Warning feature.

Dating back to 2008, the research is being run by DADSS in partnership with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety – representing 17 car makers – and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA head, Mark Rosekind, states that “There is still a great deal of work to do, but support from Congress and the industry has helped us achieve key research and development milestones. DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) has enormous potential to prevent drunk driving in specific populations such as teen drivers and commercial fleets, and making it an option available to vehicle owners would provide a powerful new tool in the battle against drunk driving deaths.”

However, not everybody is thrilled about these new advances to deter drunk driving. Managing Director of American Beverage Institute, Sarah Longwell, told The Detroit News that it “will simply stop many responsible social drinkers who have a glass of wine with dinner from starting their cars.” While a valid point, any person who chooses to drive after any level of intoxication can lead to a poor outcome and can still be seen as “driving under the influence.”