NHTSA Working on Technology to Stop Wilmington DUI Crashes
Drivers are aware of the tremendous risks of drunk driving. Public education campaigns have helped to reinforce the rule that friends don't let friends drive drunk and have helped to stigmatize impaired driving. Aggressive enforcement of drunk driving laws has also reduced acceptability of and increased the consequences of impaired driving. Despite the success of education and enforcement efforts, an experienced car accident lawyer knows there are still 10,000 annual deaths on average caused by people who are drunk behind the wheel.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes technology could help to solve this problem and could make impaired driving a problem of the past. The U.S. Department of Transportation secretary indicated the agency is "bullish on technology," in large part because of the success of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS).
DADSS Could Help Stop Impaired Driving
NHTSA paired with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) to develop DADSS. The agency recently announced it was excited about the creation of the first test vehicle incorporating DADSS technology. The test vehicle will be used by researchers to get a better understanding of how drivers interact with a car equipped with features designed to make impaired driving impossible.
There are two different technologies under development incorporated into the test vehicle. The first is a system designed to detect blood alcohol levels by touch. An infrared light is used to shine through the fingertips of the driver, which makes it possible to determine the driver's BAC underneath the skin's surface.
The second technology is a breathalyzer technology. Unlike ignition interlock devices installed in vehicles after a drunk driving conviction, DADSS technology is designed to work without the driver having to specifically blow into a breath test. The system is able to detect a motorist's blood alcohol concentration based on a normal exhale when the driver is breathing normally.
Both DADSS technologies are intended to work seamlessly without the driver even realizing they are present. In order for them to be incorporated into vehicles, they need to not infringe on the rights of motorists or make driving less convenient. Researchers will be testing whether they work seamlessly and whether they work effectively without false positives for impaired driving.
The technologies will determine if the driver's blood alcohol concentration is above the nationwide legal limit of .08. If the driver's BAC exceeds the limit, the car will not start. An estimated 7,000 lives annually could be saved if the technology works as planned because it can virtually eliminate impaired driving.
When the technology is initially incorporated into new vehicles, it is expected to be sold as an add-on and marketed to parents who want to ensure their teens do not drive after drinking. Perhaps some day, however, it will be included standard on all cars and will prevent all motorists from making the life-threatening choice to operate a vehicle while impaired by alcohol.
The technology is still years away from adoption, and drivers will ultimately remain responsible for making safe choices as they always have been. Still, perhaps some day technology will help to make drunk driving a thing of the past.