As anyone who follows the news likely realizes, law enforcement agencies not only across Minnesota, but across the rest of the country, place a tremendous emphasis on cracking down on drunk drivers.
Elected officials often exert pressure on police departments to whittle away at the number of deaths related to drunk driving that occur on roadways across the country each year. Though alcohol-related deaths nationwide are at historic lows, down another 2.5% last year to just under 10,000, law enforcement authorities insist that more can be done.
One way of reducing the number of alcohol-related crashes each year is to find a way to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle in the first place. One method for doing this already exists and is even in use here in Minnesota. The technology is known as an ignition interlock system and it works by prevents a vehicle from starting until an individual blows into the device until the driver breathes into a device to allow the device to determine any alcohol content. Currently, the devices are only placed in the vehicles of some drivers with previous drunk driving convictions. However, a new system has been imagined that will simply come installed in all new vehicles.
Another system, currently in development thanks to a researcher name Bud Zaouk, is aiming to improve upon the current ignition interlock system. The project, known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) and is being billed as a way to stop drunk driving for good. The system is being designed by a company known as QinetiQ North America, located outside Boston. So far more than $10 million has been poured into the device and is being funded by more than a dozen automakers and the federal government.
While currently used systems are purely breath-based, Zaouk’s system will be both breath and touch-based. The idea behind the high-tech device is to have a sensor that is able to detect if anyone operating a vehicle has a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, 0.08. If so, the sensor will prevent the car from moving, thus stopping any drunk drivers before they get started.
The sensor has been conceived as an infrared light that peers inside your finger before you are able to start your car. The light will be able to detect the presence of alcohol in your finger’s tissue. Scientists say that alcohol presents itself in a unique way in a person’s blood and the sensor will be able to recognize the optical signature of a person who has consumed more alcohol than the legal limit allows.
The breath component of the DADSS will use a sensor positioned somewhere near the steering wheel to continually scan the air for alcohol molecules. Both components are non-contact and non-invasive, supposedly selling points according to the manufacture. So far the system is still several years away from appearing in cars.
Not everyone loves the idea of the new system, however. One group, the American Beverage Institute, has said its more than 8,000 restaurant members oppose federal funding of the device. The group released a statement saying that given the historically low levels of drunk driving accidents in recent years, there is no reason for all drivers in the U.S. to be subjected to constant alcohol-monitoring.