Disconnecting “Drunk” from “Driving”: NTSB Recommends Increased Use of In-Vehicle Alcohol Testing Technology
In May the National Transportation Safety Board released 19 recommendations to eliminate impaired driving. This post is the third in a series examining the NTSB’s five safety issue areas.
The NTSB recommends expanding the use of in-vehicle devices to prevent operation by an impaired driver. These types of devices can deliver promising outcomes for eliminating alcohol-impaired driving.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, all 50 states have some type of ignition interlock law for DWI/DUI offenders. Before the vehicle will start, a driver must blow into the device, which analyzes the breath alcohol concentration. If the alcohol concentration exceeds the pre-set limit, typically around .02, the vehicle will not start.
Ignition interlock requirements vary, but more and more states are increasing the severity of their laws. Just this month Tennessee began requiring ignition interlock devices for all convicted offenders, and Washington State’s governor signed a new law, to take effect in September, which makes the devices mandatory for those who commit two or more impaired driving offenses. Yet despite these laws, many offenders find ways to circumnavigate a court-ordered ignition interlock or simply ignore the requirement altogether.
An alternate that automobile manufacturers are developing is Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), an unobtrusive in-vehicle technology that can accurately estimate a driver’s BAC. Both breath-based and touch-based approaches are being tested. Like ignition interlock devices, if the BAC exceeds the pre-set limit, the vehicle will not start. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the technology could be ready for general use and integrated into vehicles in the next 8 to 10 years. Inclusion of this technology into new vehicles would ensure that all drivers—not just those convicted of a DWI—are tested for alcohol consumption before they start down the road.
There are arguments for and against in-vehicle technologies like ignition interlocks and DADSS. Those in favor believe they can save lives while opponents believe they are a step toward prohibition. What are some of the successes and challenges of ignition interlock laws in your state? What do you think about the possibility of implementing DADSS technology in all vehicles?
In my next blog, I’ll look at the NTSB’s recommendation to use DWI Courts and other programs to reduce recidivism by repeat DWI offenders.