Each year there are one million driving while intoxicated (DWI) convictions and 1.5 million arrests, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a result, more than 10,800 people died in crashes that involved a drunk driver throughout the U.S. in 2009. That figure represents 32 percent of all crash-related fatalities for the entire year.
What can be done?
In an effort to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road and the related accidents, a coalition made up of safety advocates, auto insurance companies and the alcohol industry have asked Congress to approve a research program exploring automatic alcohol-detection devices that could see auto insurance quotes slashed.
The $60-million five-year research program would look into the impact outfitting every car on the road with a detection system may have on the country and the number of alcohol-related accidents on America’s roads.
Introduction of DADSS
Earlier in the year, the United States Department of Transportation introduced the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), which can calculate an individual’s blood alcohol level in two ways.
The first system is a tissue-based technology, which is able to detect the amount of alcohol in a person’s system by the touch of a finger. The driver would place their finger over the sensor before starting the car and if they were over the legal limit the vehicle simply would not start.
The second part of the technology involves a breath-based system, but one that is much more advanced than the breathalyzers currently being used today. The DADSS technology will operate with an infrared light spectrum which will be able to detect a driver’s blood alcohol level.
Years away from installation
While these potential breakthroughs in the fight against drunk driving may seem like valid options, experts report that they will not be available for mass production for several years. However, lawmakers still feel that the technology, when ready, will be a valuable safety feature that may help limit the number of automobile accidents and vehicular-related deaths and possibly lead to lower car insurance quotes.
“It may be another means – like lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise control – to help avert crashes, injuries, and fatalities before they occur,” said NHTSA head Ray LaHood.