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Government encourages development of alcohol detecting technology

New technology could soon appear in new vehicles that prevent people from driving if they are over the legal limit for alcohol.

A New Jersey man has admitted to drinking and driving after getting into a car accident with another vehicle. According to, the other vehicle contained three women, one of whom was admitted to a local hospital with a lacerated liver and a couple of broken vertebrae. The other two women suffered minor injuries from the crash.

The New Jersey State Police fatality report for 2013 shows 542 people died in auto accidents. Out of that number 12 percent of the drivers in those collisions, which resulted in death, had exceeded the legal limit. In the last couple of years, the U.S. government has provided funding to technology companies for the development and eventual implementation of vehicle alcohol detecting systems.

A preventative step

People in New Jersey and elsewhere are often required to use an ignition interlock upon conviction for a drunk driving offense. Auto makers and the U.S. Department of Education would like to take this one step further and create a technology that would eliminate drinking and driving altogether. The New York Times states that every year around 10,000 people in the U.S. are killed in drunk driving accidents. This statistic has stemmed an interest in developing cars that have the ability to detect alcohol and prevent ignitions from being turned on.

Possible solutions

Currently, there are two systems competing for the final choice. The first system operates in a manner similar to an ignition interlock. However, according to Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, drivers would not have to blow into a device. The system would simply extract the driver’s breath as it is normally exhaled and measure the amount of alcohol. If the alcohol is determined to be at 0.08 or higher, than the driver would be unable to start the car.

The second system is based on touch technology. Essentially, a touch pad could be placed on the vehicle’s start button or on the steering wheel. Sensors in the pad would use blood vessels beneath the person’s fingertips to measure the blood alcohol content level. Both systems would not be intrusive to the driver and take mere seconds to calculate.

Potential problems

While this move to improve road safety has been applauded by many, there are still several challenges that developers face. One challenge is ensuring that it is the driver’s BAC that is being measured and not someone else’s. Another challenge is making sure that the system operates correctly so that someone below the legal limit isn’t prevented from starting the vehicle.

The new system is not expected to start appearing in new cars for several more years. Drunk driving accidents often result in serious injuries and fatalities. Victims of negligent drivers may find it helpful to discuss their rights and options with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.

Keywords: drunk driving, accident, injury