Automakers have developed a number of safety features in the past few years that reduce the odds of having an accident.
Features such as stability control, lane departure warnings, and backup cameras all make it possible to avoid accidents while traveling on the roadways. There is one safety feature currently in the works that would prevent one of the major causes of traffic fatalities in the United States: drunk driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and automakers are currently investing on technology research and development projects that would automatically detect whether a person is intoxicated before they are allowed to operate a motor vehicle.
In all, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is spending $10 million on the project, which is being funded by a recent transportation bill passed by Congress. The fact that taxpayer funds are being used for this program has raised a few eyebrows among opponents of this new technology.
Representatives of the food and beverage industry have declared that alcohol detection technology could interfere with an individual’s right to drink socially. Since blood alcohol content rises over time, people could be concerned about their levels being too high once they begin operating the vehicle. This could result in fewer people wanting to have a drink during dinner or sporting events.
Supporters of the program claim that alcohol detection technology has the capacity to save lives and would not be mandatory equipment. People could choose to purchase vehicles equipped with this technology in order to receive a discount on their automobile insurance. It is estimated that cars with this technology could hit the market sometime within the next decade.
Vehicles equipped with alcohol detection technology would operate differently than those equipped with an ignition interlock device would. An ignition interlock device requires drivers to blow into a tube before starting a vehicle. Alcohol detection technology would use non-invasive means to detect the amount of alcohol a driver has in his or her bloodstream.
One way of doing this would be to install sensors on the steering wheel and gearshift that would systematically detect blood alcohol content from sweat emitted through the fingertips. There might also be sensors installed in the cabin of a vehicle that would measure the amount of alcohol detected in a driver’s exhaled breath.
Since the technology being developed is non-invasive, sober drivers would not be inconvenienced by the presence of sensors inside the vehicle. There are concerns about the accuracy of these sensors, as inaccurate readings could result in vehicles being temporarily disabled. Time will tell if developers of alcohol detection technology will be able to deliver just that.