Drunk driving or driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the leading causes of car crashes and road accidents. In 2016, 10,497 people died in drunk driving crashes that involved a driver with an illegal blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), which would be .08 or greater (NHTSA). According to the CDC, 29 people die in the United States every day due to drunk driving. In 2016, over a million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
With the accelerated rise of smarter and safer cars, as led by Tesla, we know that the possibility of a world without drunk driving can be within reach with the aid of advanced technology. Imagine a world without drunk drivers on the road.
The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) Program has set out to research and innovate a first-of-its-kind technology that would detect whether a driver is intoxicated and prevent that car from moving. Such technology can address the shortcomings of other technologies that detect the level of intoxication but are not able to stop the person from driving their vehicle. The technology being developed by DADSS can potentially be integrated in the vehicle as a safety option, similar to other systems such as lane departure warnings and automatic braking.
This program is a public-private partnership between the federal government, represented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the leading automotive companies, represented by Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.
There are two systems explored – breath-based and touch-based. Both have passed the proof-of-concept stage and are being tested, reduced, and modified to fit in a car.
- Breath-based System. This technology measures the driver’s alcohol level in their naturally exhaled breath using a sensor that will be placed on the driver’s side of the car. The small sensor will compare the amount of carbon dioxide molecules versus the alcohol molecules in the breath via infrared light.
- Touch-based System. This technology will be integrated with current vehicle controls such as the starting button or the steering wheel, as it measures alcohol concentration under the skin’s surface, also with the use of infrared light through the driver’s fingertip.
These promising systems could be the answer to the pressing problem on the road that is drunk driving. If they indeed get integrated with every vehicle in the market, it can save many lives. This type of technology, considering the problem it aims to solve, needs to be accurate, reliable, and fast; and sensitive enough to distinguish between a sober and drunk driver in order not to hassle the former by not starting their car when needed.
As we wait for these technologies to arrive at fruition, everyone must take personal responsibility in taking precautions when drinking and driving. In order to avoid drunk driving and putting yourself at risk, here are some tips:
- Do not drink on an empty stomach. When you do so, the alcohol goes straight to your bloodstream and hit you harder and faster.
- Pace yourself. The rule of thumb is to have no more than one drink per hour.
- Stop drinking 90 minutes before you plan to leave. Give yourself some time to sober up a little before hitting the road.
- Give someone else your keys. Find a friend you can trust and give them your keys, and tell them not to give you the keys if they think you are not capable of driving anymore; or better yet, pick a designated driver.
- Take public transit or call a cab or an Uber.
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