A new technology could keep impaired drivers from ever getting behind the wheel.
Despite all the public service announcements, the police checkpoints and the threat of arrest, driving under the influence is still a big problem. Drunk driving continues to be involved in one-third of traffic-related deaths in the US — roughly 11,000 deaths per year.
Technology is coming, though, that could make DUIs just a distant memory. A new alcohol-sensing technology is currently in development and could be required to be installed by all automakers in the future. The technology works by detecting alcohol in a driver's breath or skin using one of two options. Tissue spectrometry employs a laser touchpad to detect alcohol in human tissue, while distant spectrometry uses sniff tests to gauge alcohol levels on a driver's breath.
This latest advance is a big step forward from the current "interlock" system that some states currently require for convicted drunk drivers, which consists of drivers blowing into a tube that determines their blood alcohol level is below the legal limit before allowing the car to start. These devices can easily be circumvented by having another individual blow into the tube, plus they are only installed after someone has already been arrested for driving while intoxicated. This new technology, however, would be installed in all cars, potentially stopping DUIs before they happen.
This potential fix comes at a hefty price, though. Research into alcohol-sensing technology has already cost $10 million in five years, and researchers want $24 million to continue. And not everyone is a fan. The restaurant industry is worried about malfunctions that would mean responsible sober drivers or those who’ve had a single drink could be left stranded after a night out. Also, it only detects alcohol, so we still have drugged drivers to contend with out there on the open road. Still, the price may be worth it if it saves lives and keeps impaired drivers from ever getting behind the wheel.
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