How the Government Plans to Prevent Drunk Driving

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In 25 states across the U.S., drunk driving offenders must have ignition interlock devices installed in their cars. A similar technology may soon be available as an upgrade to new vehicles, in order to keep drunk driving from happening in the first place.

This new system, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), was created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and features noninvasive means of measuring your blood alcohol level. Touch points on the start button and gear shift, according to a report by The Christian Science Monitor, will “shine a light on the driver’s finger and use near-infrared tissue spectroscopy to ascertain how much the person has had to drink. If the driver’s blood alcohol content is above 0.08 the car’s engine won’t start.”

This system, which has been in development since 2008, was given the green light by Congress in 2012. One year later, the NHTSA began collaborating with 15 major automakers to continue research.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, there was approximately one drunk driving-related death every 51 minutes. Drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.08—the legal definition of intoxication—are four times more likely to get into a crash than sober drivers. Those with a level of 0.15 percent are 12 times more likely to cause a collision.

With statistics like this, “There’s not going to be a parent who isn’t going to want this in their child’s car,” NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind says.

Despite the government's endorsement, DADSS installation will not be mandatory. Instead, it will likely be offered as an upgrade costing around $150 to $200.

Not everyone is in favor of the spread of this technology. Sarah Longwell, director of the American Beverage Institute, argues that “because alcohol isn’t immediately absorbed into the bloodstream, and BAC could rise while driving, DADSS would have to set its limit below 0.08 … DADSS will simply stop many responsible social drinkers who have a glass of wine with dinner from starting their cars.”