Safety advocates are pointing out that anti-DUI technology has advanced faster that the government’s willingness to use them, but that could change sooner than most people think. Countless advances in technology, a push from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and a push from the federal government could have universal anti-DUI tech in all cars by next year.
New technologies are being developed at a rapid rate, and organizations are excited to see theirs enter the market. The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety now has a breath-analyzing interlock device ready for commercial use by the end of this year and a consumer version coming in 2024.
It would work like a breathalyzer and is intended to be standard on all vehicles. So far, it’s a top choice among safety advocates. The government has also been working on a research and development project with automakers for over a decade known as Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS).
DADSS is designed to passively detect intoxication, preventing the vehicle from starting if the driver is over the legal limit. The system could use a combination of recording the driver’s breath without an added device and a touch-based system that would detect blood alcohol level under the skin via infrared light.
Volvo also has integrated driver monitoring systems featuring cameras and sensors as part of their suite of safety systems. Both would function to ensure intoxicated drivers can’t start their cars. While all of these are great options, there’s one group pushing for immediate change with current technology.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has launched a campaign designed to push automakers to make an immediate change. The group focuses on existing safety technology such as driver monitoring and lane assistance controls, pointing out that these assistive features could already be used to curb DUIs.
They want automakers to implement these as standard features now, rather than waiting for DADSS or autonomous technology to reach the market. There are currently 241 options that would help combat drunk driving, and MADD is furious that the industry hasn’t utilized them in this manner.
The auto industry disagrees, saying these current technologies aren’t advanced enough for the task just yet. Their concerns are devices misreading levels of intoxication, stopping people from driving or even forcing a car off the road through assistive steering and lane controls.
A Government Push
MADD just might get their wish with the current makeup of the federal government, though. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation, is coming to the floor of the Senate soon. There’s a similar bill in the House as well.
Both task the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with creating rules and standards around implementing anti-DUI technologies. With several Democrats and Republicans already on board, either bill is likely to pass.
The auto industry spoke up here, as well, saying they would prefer to wait for the accuracy of the DADSS system. The NHTSA agrees, but the DADSS team has a few tweaks to make before its expected launch in 2023.
MADD and other anti-DUI organizations, however, feel the auto industry is stopping progress from being made. Other detractor wonder what might happen to jobs like this Boulder DUI attorney and state revenue made from DUI arrests. Those questions are usually overshadowed by the almost 10,000 lives lost to intoxicated driving each year, though.
If Congress passes one or both of their bills, some form of technology could become standard in all vehicles by next year. The U.S. might wait for DADSS, it might use existing tech, or it could choose another option hitting the market. Regardless of how it happens, standard issue ignition interlocks are on the way.