In early June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) met with Congress and industry safety experts in Washington, D.C., and unveiled a test vehicle with a mock-up of a much-anticipated new safety technology, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). This NHTSA and an industry consortium is engineering the safety feature to detect alcohol, thereby preventing alcohol-impaired drivers from operating their vehicles.
“Alcohol-impaired driving crashes kill nearly 10,000 people annually; this alcohol-detection vehicle technology could potentially save thousands of lives each year,” explains the NHTSA.
The Alcohol Detection System
The NHTSA explains that the DADSS will not be mandatory, but it will be available as an optional safety feature in many vehicles. More than two dozen major auto manufacturers are already on board. There are two kinds of technology the engineers are exploring.
One is a breath detector that will be built either into the driver’s side door or the steering wheel. It will pick up the driver’s breath while he/she is breathing normally, and it is smart enough not to pick up on anyone else’s breath in the car. The device will almost instantly make a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading. If it’s higher than the 0.08 legal limit, the car will not move.
The second DADSS technology in the works functions in much the same way as the breath test, but it is touch-based, rather than breath-based. A button, which will be located on the gear shaft or the ignition switch, will use light technology to get BAC readings just below the skin’s surface when the driver presses it.
Cars that use the DADSS can be programmed to accommodate drivers younger than age 21. Because their legal alcohol limit is 0.00, the owner (or parents) can program the system to have a zero tolerance level. Parents will be able to rest easier knowing their teen will not be able to drink and drive.
DADSS Release Date Still Unknown
The NHTSA and industry consortium are still working on the technologies and expect all the testing to be completed in five to eight years. In the meantime, there are a couple of concerns people have raised about the technology. For example, some believe the car should cease to operate at a BAC of 0.05 instead of 0.08 because it takes time for the alcohol to reach the bloodstream. Drivers may pass the BAC test when they get in the car, but as the alcohol hits their system and the BAC rises, the BAC may exceed the legal limit. Experts want to work out all the kinks prior to release.
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