Rethinking Accident Prevention: Technology Against Drunk Driving

Everyone knows about the dangers associated with drunk driving, but given that alcohol consumption is a common social activity, it’s a hard behavior to curb. Add to that the fact that inebriated individuals suffer from impaired judgment and people will inevitably get behind the wheel while intoxicated – unless something serious changes. Just as new technology like traffic cameras may curb hit and run accidents, the right innovations could reduce the likelihood of drunk drivers piloting cars and putting themselves and others at risk.

Automating Anti-Drunk Driving Efforts

Every time you get behind the wheel today, there are a few approaches that seek to discourage you from driving while drunk. These include peer pressure, your own moral code, and fear of legal repercussions. What if there was a more reliable approach to the process, though? This is what many people, including a number of lawmakers, hope to accomplish by pushing for passive alcohol detection systems to become a standard feature of new cars in the near future.

Passive alcohol detection systems come in two different forms: a breathalyzer-style that measures alcohol content when the driver exhales and a touch-based form that measures alcohol content via the skin. While installing such technology would not eliminate all potential risks – distracted driving and poor judgment more generally also cause many accidents – they would meaningfully reduce risk for everyone on the road.

First Steps Toward Prevention

So far, Congress has been unsuccessful in pushing car manufacturers to make anti-drunk driving mechanisms mandatory, but national changes aren’t the only option. In fact, at least when it comes to people who have a history of DUIs, the courts have another option, which is widely used: an ignition interlock device. Much like the breathalyzers used by police, an ignition interlock device measures an individual’s BAC, but if it registers too high, the driver is prevented from starting the engine.

While drivers in more than half the country may be subject to the installation of an ignition interlock device if they’re convicted of a DUI, many families find the devices to be particularly reassuring in cases when their child has been charged with drunk driving.

Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving favor the widespread use of BAC measurement technology for good reason – they don’t want to wait for a tragedy to prevent dangerous behavior. Unfortunately, many parents don’t realize that these tools are an option until after their child is charged, which is why personal interlock devices aren’t used more widely. Still, the fact that this technology is not solely government property can work to your advantage.

When dealing with an underage DUI charge, one way a skilled lawyer may help minimize the consequences is by offering to install an interlock device in your personal vehicles without a court order to do so. As car accident attorney Rowdy Williams explains, “Young people can be subject to both more and less extreme punishments for drunk driving than adults at the discretion of the courts – more extreme because they have engaged in two illegal actions by drinking while underage and then getting behind the wheel and less because they have less developed judgment skills and are less culpable.” Under the right circumstances, then, demonstrating that there is a clear intervention in place to prevent your teen from repeating their actions can gain them some leniency.

Technology In Progress

The main reason that there is not yet a firm mandate for making car manufacturers install Driver Alcohol Detection Systems in their vehicles is that these systems are still being fine-tuned and require rigorous laboratory and field testing before they can be required, but they are well on their way to being ready.

Once these devices have passed the tests, though, we could be on the slow road toward getting them into new vehicles. Though it would take over a decade to ensure these devices are in even the majority of vehicles on the road, every step towards preventing drunk driving is a step in the right direction.

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