Driving drunk is one of the riskiest and most preventable actions a motorist can take. A crash can seriously injure or kill anyone on the road. A conviction can land you in jail, get you fired or ruin job prospects. Tuition aid may be jeopardized. Property managers might not want to rent to you.
What if a smart car could prevent drivers from making a life-changing mistake? Guess what: they already do. Developers have invented technology that analyzes a vehicle’s cabin air to determine whether a driver is legally drunk and prevents it from starting if they are.
The innovation is projected to save up to 5,000 lives every year on American streets and highways. The question is not if automakers will standardize the technology in new vehicles but when.
In all new cars by 2024?
New York drivers are considered drunk if they register a blood-alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. Ignition-interlock devices (IID) already prevent vehicles from starting if a driver registers above the legal limit. But that is only for motorists who have had an IID installed under court order after being convicted of driving under the influence.
To broaden the shutdown and stop all drunk driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) joined the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety in a public-private initiative. They created the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS).
DADSS shuts down a vehicle if a driver pollutes the ambient air with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. Researchers are field-testing the equipment now, and lawmakers are considering ways to install DADSS in all new vehicles by 2024.
Tough penalties, lengthy license suspensions
The dangers remain urgent despite years of increased awareness and tougher penalties for repeat offenders. The NHTSA said one-third of 2018 traffic deaths involved alcohol.
Smarter cars could save lives. They also could keep drivers out of trouble. Until then, drunk driving risks jail time, lengthy license suspensions and long-term consequences.
There are rights to defend for people who have been arrested and ways to reduce charges or keep a DUI off their driving record. Someone experienced in criminal defense can challenge the initial police stop or evidence presented at trial.