How Technology Could Save Thousands of Lives in the War on Drunk Driving

How Technology Could Save Thousands of Lives in the War on Drunk Driving

The advent of companies like Uber and Lyft going to a bar or a party and having an easy, affordable way to get a ride home has hopefully prevented many injuries and/or deaths. DUI is still a huge problem in this country and according to statistics compiled by boulder dui attorney, The Moorhead Law Group, the greatest risk for DUI incidents is among young people ages 19 to 24.

With approximately 10,000 people losing their lives each year in alcohol related accidents in the US, much more can and should be done. While Uber and Lyft may be aiding in a small way to the effort for prevention, there are new technologies on the horizon that may offer even further advances in preventing even more alcohol-related fatalities.

The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS program, is involved in development of a technology that would automatically detect if a driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .08, which is the legal limit in all 50 states. If the system determines that BAC is above the legal limits, it will prevent the car from moving. Ideally they would like to see the system be made available as an advanced safety option in new vehicles, such as other advanced driver assist technologies, such as lane departure warning and automatic braking.

The DADSS research program has a goal of developing a rapid, accurate, reliable, and affordable system that does not interfere with normal driving behavior. The research involves two different technologies, both to be integrated within the vehicle. The first is the aforementioned breath-based system. With sensors near the driver’s face, it would measure alcohol level in a driver’s natural exhale, without the driver having to breath into an apparatus or intentionally do a “self-check.” The technology will be able to distinguish between the breath of the driver and that of the passengers and take instantaneous readings.

The second system being explored is a touch-based system, which would measure blood alcohol content levels under the surface of the skin through an infrared-light shined through the fingertip. Integration of this technology would be in places where the fingertip would naturally end up, such as a steering wheel or start button. The technology will supposedly be able to take multiple readings in under one second.

The DADSS program first began 9 years ago, in 2008, building prototypes and testing to figure out which technologies had the best potential for vehicle integration. In December of 2013 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a five-year extension of its agreement with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), to continue this advanced alcohol detection technology. These technologies must meet strict performance standards in areas such as accuracy, speed, reliability, and precision. Integration of the technologies into prototype vehicles along with testing and observation of drivers in natural settings are a part of the vetting process to test the systems in real-world situations. The DADSS has been continuing their work and actively involved in conferences and other technology events.

This technology has great potential to advance DUI prevention to levels heretofore unknown. This could drastically reduce the number of drunk driving deaths each year and let to the innovation of other similar technologies to further prevent unnecessary deaths related to drunk driving. To learn more visit the DADSS faq page.