Alcohol Detector May be Tool to Prevent Car Accidents

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been at it for years, trying to stop the carnage. The numbers have come down somewhat, but drunk driving accidents remain a frequent occurrence on Pennsylvania roads. The injuries can be terrible and often lead to untimely deaths.

Nationally, upwards of 11,000 deaths each year are caused by drunk driving – about a third of all the highway fatalities in the nation.

The tools of modern technology are increasingly being deployed to confront this longstanding problem, To prevent car accidents caused by drunk drivers, for example, more and more states are requiring the installation of an ignition interlock device following a DWI conviction.

But what if carmakers were to proactively design cars with alcohol sensors as part of the equipment? With such a tool as part of a car’s standard equipment, would-be drivers who are over the legal alcohol limit would be stopped in their trackers – before injuring or killing someone on the road.

One quick-check alcohol sensor now being tested by federal regulators is called DADSS. This is the acronym for the in-vehicle Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation, thinks the tool “may hold the promise for stopping drunk driving before it happens.”

Laura Dean-Mooney, the president of MADD, echoed that thought. “We believe this might turn the car into the cure for the elimination of drunk driving,” she said.

The DADSS tool currently has two prototypes. One would test for alcohol in the driver’s inhaled breath. The other would sense alcohol levels in the fingertips.

QinetiQ, a Massachusetts company, has received a $10 million dollar federal grant to test the technology.