Researchers are working to develop a high-tech, unobtrusive alcohol detection system that could be installed in vehicles within a decade to help eliminate drunk driving.
The program, known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, could receive about $10.7 million in funding through federal transportation legislation approved by Congress last week, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. It is a private/public partnership between the auto industry and the federal government.
Wayne Harper, director of the Center for Traffic Safety in York County, said Ignition Interlock systems, which are used for repeat DUI offenders, shows drivers when they can't start the car that they've had too much to drink. It helps people to alter their drinking habits.
The alcohol detection system being developed could be a "valuable tool" for people, but some issues would need to be resolved, such as the possibility of a driver's blood-alcohol concentration level exceeding the 0.08 legal limit while the car is in motion, Harper said.
With the system being developed, the driver's blood-alcohol concentration could be measured by either touch or breath with sensors installed the ignition, gear shift or other parts of the cabin. It's intended to be unobtrusive for those who are sober. A research vehicle could be ready by next year, according to the DADSS web site.
If the driver's BAC-level registers at 0.08 -- the legal limit in all states -- or higher, the vehicle could not be driven, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is estimated the technology could save 8,000 lives each year.
"We really believe we have a blueprint that can eliminate drunk driving," said J.T. Griffin, a national spokesman for MADD.
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