Can Car Technology Prevent Drunk Driving?

The fight against drunk driving has just escalated. Instead of relying on media campaigns to discourage drinking and driving, Congress has found another weapon: alcohol sensors inside the vehicle which can detect whether a driver is intoxicated. If so, the car will start but the driver cannot move it.

This alcohol prevention technology will soon become mandatory in motor vehicles across the country, thanks to a recent act of Congress. This move could potentially lead to a substantial reduction in the number of drunk driving accidents.

DADSS Technology is the Wave of the Future

A lab in Boston developed the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, called DADSS. There are two different types of technology. With the first, a driver’s breath is captured and studied using infrared light to determine the blood alcohol concentration. With the second, sensors measure the BAC just below the skin of your thumb or finger when the driver presses something, such as a button to start the vehicle. Either system can quickly identify a driver’s BAC, usually within less than a second.

Funding has been provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as from private backers. The world’s largest automotive companies also funded the creation of this technology.

How DADSS Technology Differs from Ignition Interlock Devices

You might be confused because many people arrested for DWI in Texas already have to install an ignition interlock device. How is DADSS any different?

For starters, a motorist must affirmatively blow into the IID to start the vehicle. The DADSS system uses more passive measures to collect a person’s breath without them having to do anything but breathe inside the car. Consequently, the DADSS system might be harder to trick or work around.

Saving Lives

If deployed across all vehicles, DADSS technology could take a real bite out of the 10,000 drunk driving deaths each year. However, there has been resistance from certain quarters. For example, trucking and rental car companies complained that the system represents intrusive surveillance, and the American Beverage Institute has also criticized the DADSS technology as unlikely to work perfectly. As a result, sober drivers might get stranded when they can’t start their vehicles.

Other privacy advocates wonder if the car companies will continue to collect evidence on you, which might be released to the public in a hack.

Coming Soon to a Vehicle Near You?

Congress showed an early interest in the DADSS technology, with many members viewing it as a critical piece of safety, much like air bags. Momentum built until Congress included a DADSS requirement for manufacturers in the 2021 U.S. Infrastructure Bill. The DADSS system will become mandatory in all new vehicles after 2026. It will take NHTSA a few years to finalize their program and then a year or two for manufacturers to begin including the technology in the cars.

At the office of Tad Nelson, we eagerly await all technological improvements which reduce the incidence of drunk driving. Until then, we continue to help men and women arrested for driving while intoxicated, and we can work to help you avoid the harshest criminal penalties. Contact us today.