The future of cars isn’t in their ability to fly, as anyone who grew up on science fiction movies has long been led to believe. Their real future is a bit less fanciful but no less impressive and certainly far more important. The ability to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel—and believe it not, we’re just a couple of years away from having roadworthy vehicles that’ll refuse to operate if anyone with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher tries to hit the road.
Although it’s a brilliant idea, it isn’t exactly new. Right now, it’s possible to have a breathalyzer installed onto a car’s dashboard that will prevent the engine from turning over if a certain pre-programmed blood alcohol level is exceeded on the part of the intended driver. This after-market technology is more often than not installed as one condition of drunk driving penalties for drivers who have been convicted of driving under the influence.
There’s a considerably big difference between add-on breathalyzers and what’s being developed by the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) research program. This new technology will be entirely inseparable from the vehicle itself, and one that’s not just limited to alcohol detection by breath—but by touch, as well.
The touch-based approach will utilize infrared light to read a driver’s blood alcohol level through a touch pad similar to thumbprint ID technology. Meanwhile, the placement of sensors throughout the interior of the car will sample the driver’s breath at various intervals, allowing for the detection of an increasing level of blood alcohol concentration.
Upon its completion in 2013, the DADSS research program will be another hugely critical step forward in the eradication of alcohol related car accident deaths, which already account for one in every three. It’s said that implementation of the technology has the potential of preventing some 8,000 alcohol related deaths every year—not to mention saving untold numbers of drivers from the devastating implications of costly drunk driving penalties.
Along with strict enforcement of DUI laws and continuing awareness efforts of various programs against drunk driving throughout the country, the hope is that DADSS will become a major power player in the war against drunk driving deaths—although everyone’s in agreement on one thing: the most crucial weapon in that war is the individual commitment of every conscientious driver on the road to act responsibly. Until this has been achieved, there are few technologies in the world that will ever truly make drunk driving a thing of the past.