Alcohol-related Auto Safety Technology That May Save Lives

Alcohol-related Auto Safety

Drunk driving-related accidents and fatalities may become a thing of the past as revolutionary technology is in the works to stop intoxicated drivers from ever being able to drive. Unlike the unreliable and inaccurate readings that ignition interlock devices often produce, a breath-based or touch-based system would instantly and accurately detect whether or not a driver is sober.

According to an article in the Washington Post, the latest advancement in automotive safety technology is a built-in ignition interlock that would take an “instantaneous and precise reading of every driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level when the driver attempts to start the vehicle.” Eventually, the device could become standard equipment, just like air bags or child safety locks.

The President of the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, an organization that currently represents 17 automakers, says the breath-based device will be released for use in fleet applications and as a dealer-installed accessory as early as the end of 2020. It’s known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). The breath-based system would gather a whiff of a driver’s ambient breath, and a touch-based system would analyze the touch of a driver’s finger from either a vehicle’s starter button or the steering wheel. The article in the Washington Post says that advocates claim the new device, which requires a complex formula of biology, spectroscopy, electrical engineering, politics, and consumer behavior, could save an estimated 10,000 lives each year.

Revolutionary Strides in Driver Safety

The website notes that despite DUI awareness over the last few decades and despite the use of ignition interlock devices following DUI convictions, drunk driving still claims 10,000 lives each year and costs the country about $194 billion annually. The DADSS Program has spent years researching a groundbreaking system that holds the greatest potential ever seen in this country to break the disturbing trend of driving after drinking.

The technology will automatically detect when a driver is intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08%, which is the legal limit in all fifty states except Utah. If that specific BAC level is detected, the car will not move. After meeting rigorous performance standards, the system will be offered as a safety option in new vehicles just like automatic braking, lane departure warning, and other advanced driver safety technology.

Breath-based vs. Touch-based Alcohol Detection

Unlike a Breathalyzer test that forces someone to blow hard into a tube to get a BAC measurement, the breath-based technology is designed to unobtrusively analyze alcohol in the driver’s breath. Drivers will get in their car just like they normally would, and the system will read the driver’s breath to ensure sobriety. According to the DADSS website, “The system draws the driver’s exhaled breath into a sensor, which measures the concentrations of alcohol and carbon dioxide present. The known quantity of carbon dioxide in human breath serves as an indicator of the degree of dilution of the alcohol concentration in exhaled air.”

With the touch-based technology, there’s an analysis of alcohol found beneath the driver’s skin’s surface—actually, the blood alcohol content that’s detected in the capillaries. BAC is measured by shining an infrared light on the driver’s skin, similar to a low power flashlight; the light moves into the tissue. A portion of the light is reflected back to the skin’s surface; the light contains information on the skin’s unique chemical properties, including the concentration of alcohol.

While some are skeptical about the accuracy of both the breath- and touch-based technology, one thing is certain: the current ignition interlock devices being used are flawed, and the number of DUI-related accidents and deaths has not decreased in recent years. It will be interesting to see if DADSS will be the solution to a deadly problem that’s been plaguing the United States for decades.

Lynn Fugaro About Lynn Fugaro

Lynn has been writing web content since 2007 after a lengthy career as a middle school English teacher and administrator. Writing web content seemed a natural progression following a career teaching adolescents about the beauty and the power of the written word, and she quickly got hooked on the challenge of writing SEO- and reader-friendly content that could be found on Page 1 of Google and other search engines.

Having written content for physicians and attorneys for the first few years of her writing career, Lynn has most recently produced original, informative, entertaining, and relevant content for the entertainment industry, the automotive industry, senior communities, pet rescues and numerous other businesses hoping to increase website traffic and page views for all clients looking for informative, vibrant content.