Officials Pushing Again for Devices to Reduce DUIs

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Driving under the influence is one of the biggest problems on the road. Drunk driving is a major safety issue that accounts for a large percentage of traffic fatalities. A DUI charge can be also costly and significantly increase your car insurance rates.
Lawmakers are again pushing to make breathalyzers mandatory to reduce drunk driving. These and other alcohol detection devices are designed to prevent cars from starting if the driver is impaired. As reported by Autoblog, this idea has support from both political parties, but auto industry experts say that the technology isn’t ready for mass production.
A wrecked red sports car being loaded onto a small tow truck on a city street at night.
Driving under the influence can lead to fatal car crashes | Twenty20

The risks of driving under the influence

Autoblog reported that in 2019, 10,142 people were killed in car accidents where intoxicated driving was involved. This makes up more than a fourth of all road fatalities from that year. Drunk driving-related fatalities have decreased overall in recent years, but the problem continues to make roads less safe.
While the risk of fatal accidents while driving impaired is the main issue, the legal costs of a DUI are high as well. According to U.S. News and World Report, a person charged with a DUI could pay more than 10,000 in total fines and legal fees.

Mandatory alcohol detection systems can help reduce DUIs

Breathalyzers are built into a car's ignition system, and require drivers to be tested for alcohol before the car starts. But, a breathalyzer can be inconvenient if it’s embedded into the middle of your dashboard or car door. The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) developed a "fully passive, non-invasive alcohol detection system" for commercial vehicles.
Rather than having to breathe into a tube, drivers only need to exhale towards a small sensor installed near the steering wheel. This system doesn’t allow the vehicle to start if any alcohol is detected. You won’t be able to start your car if you’ve had even a single drink.
Innovations to improve roads and safety are always happening, and alcohol detection systems could be an effective way to prevent drunk driving. If the system proposed by ACTS is effective for commercial fleets, then it might become a feature in consumer cars.

Why these alcohol-detecting devices aren’t ready yet

As mentioned by Autoblog, industry figures believe that alcohol-detection technology is not quite ready for widespread use. The biggest concern with these in-car systems is that a faulty sensor could be inconvenient or even dangerous. It would be irritating if your car doesn’t start, or worse, if it stops on the road, because the system incorrectly detects that you’ve had a drink.
Others point out that the system could be easy to get around. Drunk drivers could have someone else start the car. With new technology, there may be other ways to get around the system that would make it ineffective.
Other technology and devices to prevent drunk driving, like touch-based sensors, are still being developed. An in-car breathalyzer may not be a solution on its own, but it could be a step in the right direction.
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