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Proposed legislation pushes tech that would end drunk driving

Although it has not garnered much attention, legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives could mark the beginning of the end of drunk driving. If the measure is adopted, it would require all new passenger vehicles to be equipped with alcohol-detection systems in five years.

The passive equipment would prevent vehicles from being started whenever it detects a level of alcohol in the driver that is beyond the legal threshold. That means the systems would eventually prevent drunk driving crashes and would essentially be the end of drunk driving arrests. There are some doubts about the plan submitted by senators Tom Udall and Rick Scott, and U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, however.

It should be noted that the technology the politicians want to be installed in all new vehicles starting in 2024 does not yet exist. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act of 2019 is meant to spur research and development of software and hardware that would then be a required part of all new cars, pick-ups and SUVs.

There is a government-funded research program (known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety or DADSS) already underway that is working on a pair of passive alcohol detection systems. A passive system would detect alcohol on its own – no driver tasks would need to be performed.

According to a news report, one system would analyze the driver’s normally exhaled breath and determine if an acceptable level of alcohol is present. The company developing the technology is working to ensure that it would not prevent sober drivers from operating their vehicles.

The other system uses light to scan the driver’s finger and measure BAC (blood alcohol content) in the capillaries beneath the skin. It would likely be located on the vehicle’s start/stop button so that it would not require the active participation of drivers.

If one of the systems can be fine-tuned to the point that it will be “seamless, accurate, and precise, and unobtrusive to the sober driver,” the proposed legislation would require its inclusion on all new vehicles sold, beginning in five years.

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