Combatting Drunk Driving with Technology

Drunk driving has been an issue since the invention of the first automobile. Despite efforts of lawmakers, advocacy groups, and local authorities to address this issue, motorists continue to drive while intoxicated. Encouraging new technology, though, seems to offer a sound solution to this age-old problem—breath and touch sensors that can measure alcohol levels, and disable a vehicle when the driver is above the legal limit. In fact, these breakthroughs appear to be so promising that many have compared them to the advents of seatbelts and airbags, in regard to both life-saving potentials as well as affordability.

Not to be confused with existing interlock devices that measure breath-alcohol-content (BAC) level, this new generation of technology could actually eradicate drunk driving altogether.

The two types of sensors options being considered are:

  • Breath Sensors: BAC is automatically measured by a system mounted directly in front of the driver
  • Touch Sensors: Alcohol level is measured through skin tissue when the driver touches a specific surface, such as the start button.

Unlike interlock devices, these new systems would measure alcohol content in a manner that is:

  • Passive: would measure alcohol content without blowing into a tube;
  • Less Obtrusive: would be incorporated into existing vehicle components, as opposed to a separate stand-alone device;
  • Less Embarrassing: would eliminate stigma caused by having a device in your vehicle that most associate with prior alcohol-related vehicular offense;
  • More Far-reaching: would be installed as a standard or optional feature in new vehicles, rather than only vehicles in which the driver had previous DUI convictions;
  • More effective: would prevent the driver from using another person that is not impaired to bypass the system; and
  • Affordable: would cost less than $200 per vehicle according to guestimates provided by industry experts based upon general production of the sensors.

Although some have concerns over the risk that a vehicle might be disabled mid-ride if impairment level changes or was initially measured improperly—or—that a vehicle with only the breath sensor might disable a vehicle due to an intoxicated passenger—researchers, developers, and engineers say that they are still working out potential system glitches. If all goes well, consumers could expect these new technologies to be available within eight years, and perhaps even sooner.

It is yet to be determined whether the federal government would mandate such devices. In the past, lawmakers have been reluctant to step in to regulate new technologies that pose safety issues, such as keyless ignitions and smart dashboards. Some say that federal mandate may not even be necessary, because automakers will voluntarily offer the feature due to its affordability and safety benefits.

Whether through awareness, enforcement, penalty increases, or interlock devices for repeat offenders—previous efforts to combat the issue of drunk driving have fallen short.

According to safety experts, almost 300,000 people drive drunk each day in the U.S., however less than 2% are arrested. Roughly one-third of all traffic related deaths involve an alcohol impaired driver. Every day, nearly 30 people die due to drunk driving. Of all persons arrested or convicted for driving under the influence, about a third are repeat offenders.

These alarming statistics demonstrate just how serious the issue of drunk driving currently is.

Now imagine the impact these sensors could have.

If you or a loved one were harmed by a drunk driver, the Auto Accident attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. can help. Let our experienced team of injury lawyers review your case, and explain your legal rights and options during a no-cost and no-obligation consultation. Contact us online, or by phone at 773-516-4100.