New technology could provide one way to significantly decrease the number of people who drive while under the influence of alcohol in Connecticut. Despite increased awareness, drunk driving still kills 27 Americans every day. Since the drunk driving awareness organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving was founded, there has been a 50 percent decrease in the number of deaths. However, there remains work to be done to reduce the number of drunk driving incidents, which is around 300,000 thousand per day or 121 million per year.
Many states equip those convicted of driving while intoxicated with a breathalyzer ignition starter, and the new technology unveiled recently by the Department of Transportation takes this to the next level. It uses infrared and sensor technology to determine whether or not the driver is drunk, according to the New York Times.
There are two competing devices currently in development with the hope to reach the market by 2020, although the systems may become a synchronized single setup. One system uses a breath-capturing system to analyze alcohol content that differs from the current breathalyzer tests. Drivers do not have to blow directly into it; instead, there is a special venting system that captures only the driver's breath. Sensors incorporating infrared light analyze the breath to determine the level of alcohol. The other system also uses infrared technology, and reads the blood vessels in a person's hand to determine blood alcohol content. Car manufacturers may install these special touch pads on the starter button or steering wheel. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety program is funding the research.
Although this technology could prevent many drunk driving deaths, there remains much to do to ensure it works smoothly. For one, the developers need to ensure it activates only when necessary rather than not allowing sober drivers or those whose blood alcohol level is under the legal limit to operate their vehicles. There also need to be measures in place to ensure drunk drivers cannot bypass the system.