Innovations In The Ongoing Battle To Prevent Drunk-Driving

Technological researchers and engineers are continually devising electronic devices that are designed to prevent drunk-driving and keep America’s roadways safer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one victim dies every 51 minutes in an alcohol-related automobile accident. At the end of 2012, more than 10,000 people lost their lives in collisions related to alcohol-impairment. Of these fatalities, 239 victims were aged 14 or younger. More than half of these youngsters were riding in a vehicle with someone who was under the influence. In 2010 alone, nearly 1.5 million drivers were arrested for driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Drivers aged 21 to 44 comprised a total of 83 percent of the drivers operating a vehicle while under the influence.

Beginning in 2008, Automotive manufactures obtained funds from the federal government for the purpose of researching and developing vehicle technologies that would prevent intoxicated drivers from being able to start a vehicle or drive while under the influence. In 2013, David Strickland, Chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, contacted the major automotive manufacturers and encouraged them to continue research and development of technologies.

Alcohol Detection Sensors

Incorporated into the shifting knob of a vehicle, the device has the capability to detect alcohol in the perspiration of a driver’s palm if they attempt to put a vehicle in gear and drive. If the alcohol level detected is elevated above the acceptable threshold. The monitoring system automatically locks the transmission, which immobilizes the vehicle. The driver also receives an audible alert.

Fingerprint activation is another technological option that will not allow a driver into a vehicle if the system detects alcohol after touching a specially designed keypad.

Sensors might also be incorporated into the driver and passenger seats that monitor the presence of alcohol in the air of the vehicle. If elevated levels of alcohol are detected, the occupants receive and audible and visual message alert. Future planned devices include motor skill testing. Before able to start a vehicle, the driver must correctly complete a series of predetermined activities to ensure sobriety.

Facial Monitoring System

Another type of system involves monitoring alcohol-related drowsiness that may develop while someone is operating a vehicle while under the influence. The technology involves a camera mounted on the instrument cluster. The system calibrates itself according to a driver’s normal blinking pattern when sober. If the camera detects drowsiness, the driver receives an audible alert and a visual message. The seat belt also tightens around the driver as an additional attention-getting tactic. A similar system monitors driving performance. If a vehicle drifts into another lane, the system emits audio/visual alerts while tightening the seat belt.

Repeat Offender Technology

The ignition interlocking device is the most well-known and most commonly used technology when someone has been arrested for multiple DUI offenses. Before starting the vehicle, the driver must breath into an apparatus that monitors for the presence of alcohol. If the technology detects alcohol on the driver’s breath, the vehicle does not start. The system also requires that the driver repeat the process at predetermined interludes to ensure that alcohol has not been consumed at some point during an excursion. If the apparatus detects alcohol later, the system notifies law enforcement. In some vehicles, the system may also automatically shut down the engine, which stops the vehicle. The Nissan Corporation is one of the automotive manufacturers who is currently in the process of creating a vehicle with multiple preventative technologies.

Repeat offenders might also be court-ordered to purchase and wear continuous monitoring devices. Designed as an ankle bracelet, the technology contains a sensor, which links to another sensor in a vehicle’s ignition system. If detecting alcohol in the wearer, the bracelet emits a signal to the ignition, which then prevents the vehicle from starting.

Law Enforcement Technology

Alcohol sensing flashlights allow officers to detect alcohol on a driver’s breath. If the device emits a green light, the flashlight detected a questionable level of alcohol. If the device emits a red light, officers then perform a field sobriety test. Unlike alcohol sensing flashlights, the Intoxilyer 8000 not only detects alcohol levels, but additionally gathers data that is admissible in court. The device spares officers from having to transport drivers to a medical facility or to the police station for more in-depth testing.

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