A high-tech way to stop drink driving

  • AFP
  • Updated: Jun 09, 2015 10:59 IST

The US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has showcased a high-tech solution for eradicating drink driving on US roads. Called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) it can be integrated into a vehicle, accurately read a driver's blood alcohol level within one second via infrared sensors and, if it's too high, shut the car down.

Currently in the prototype stage, work started on the DADSS in 2008 as a partnership between the NHTSA and the automotive industry. The ultimate aim fo the project, is to offer the technology as an active safety system on future cars -- just like autonomous emergency braking or lane departure assist -- before the end of the decade.

"This is a perfect example of why we at Department Of Transportation are bullish on technology," said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Education, awareness and enforcement have succeeded in dramatically reducing drunk driving fatalities, but the advanced technology of DADSS brings enormous potential to save even more lives."

The NHTSA has been campaigning for 35 years about the danger of drunk driving and in that time, through tougher penalties and a greater focus on driver training, public information and education, has made huge inroads into cutting deaths and injuries. However, according to the most recent statistics, nearly 10,000 people are still killed each year because of drink driving.

There are already a host of do-it-yourself breathalysers on the market, from single use disposable units to devices that plug into smartphones and use an app.

However, while any of them can offer an accurate reading as to one's sobriety, it still leaves the individual with the ultimate responsibility -- to heed the advice or to ignore it and drive anyway.

The potentially revolutionary DADSS is simple to use and can analyze breath or skin to take a reading via infrared. Breathe normally and a sensor in the steering column or driver's door will immobilize the vehicle if a reading is greater than 0.08mg. Or in its other implementation, a sensor integrated into the start button or gearshift can read blood alcohol levels through the skin instead. Both systems can complete their calculations in less than a second.

"Public-private research partnerships like DADSS have led to innovations that enhance our everyday lives, such as the Internet, GPS and the microchip. Now we have our sights set on inventing a world without drunk driving," said Rob Strassburger, president and CEO of the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety. "There's more work to be done, but through this broad coalition of support, we are driven to successfully complete this life-saving technology."

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