Government funds research for alcohol detection technology in new vehicles

Government funds research for alcohol detection technology in new vehicles

Drunk driving is on the rise in Illinois and across the United States. Data from 2012, the most recent available, shows that the Prairie State saw a 15 percent increase in drunk driving fatalities, and the nation saw a smaller, but still alarming, rise in alcohol-related deaths and car accidents for the first time since 2005. The federal government is responding by speeding up a research project that it and the 16 major auto makers are currently funding that aims to prevent drunk drivers from operating a vehicle until they become legally sober.

Alcohol detection devices

Researchers at QinetiQ North America in Boston are currently developing the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, a technology that utilizes sobriety tests to determine whether an individual is too inebriated to drive. There are two separate systems currently in development within the DADSS project, one breath-based and the other touch-based. Both have the potential to be effective tools at preventing drunk driving.

To pass one test, drivers must simply breathe normally after taking their spot in the driver’s seat. A sensor mounted near the steering column or wheel then determines the driver’s BAC through analyzing his or her breath. The other test simply involves pressing a button. When the button is pressed, infrared light shines into the fingertip and the sensor analyzes the BAC. Safeguards in the system will detect if a passenger is reaching over to press the button instead of the driver. If drivers fail either test with a BAC higher than 0.08, which is the legal limit across the U.S., the car will not start and the driver will be forced to find an alternative means of transportation.

Simplicity is key

Researchers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have aimed to keep the sobriety tests and technology as unobtrusive as possible to help it be readily accepted by the general public. The NHTSA eventually wants to see the tests included as a standard feature in every new car produced for use in the country. A research vehicle with both technologies on board is expected to be completed sometime in 2014.

Preventing future tragedies

For some accident victims, however, these prevention devises did not come soon enough. The Evansville Courier & Press reports that a Collinsville man recently pled guilty to drunk driving charges after he rolled his SUV on November 23, 2013. The accident killed all five of his passengers, including his wife and a 16 year old girl. He was the sole survivor of the crash.

The DADSS project may be the key to preventing these tragedies from occurring in the future. However, until the technology can be implemented on a wide scale, accidents are going to continue to happen. Those who have sustained serious injury due to an alcohol-related crash should contact a personal injury attorney to discuss their matter.