Alcohol Sensors in Every Car?

Drunk driving is still a problem in almost every part of the nation. In 2009 alone, over 10,000 traffic fatalities were linked directly to drivers who had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit. Although the consequences of driving while intoxicated are already severe, they don’t seem to be keeping enough people out of the driver’s seat when they’ve had too much to drink. Many organizations have banded together to petition the federal government for more funding to create accurate and practical alcohol sensors that could be installed in every new car.

Several Agencies Backing Research Efforts

Insurance companies, auto manufacturers, and safety advocates support the funding and research into alcohol sensor technology as an appropriate response to alcohol related traffic accidents. They promote the sensor technology as a passive safety feature that would effectively prevent anyone from operating a motor vehicle if their blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit. The groups are asking for more federal money to continue research and development into alcohol sensors that are as sensitive and accurate as possible. The sensors would also need to be acceptable to the public, which might be one of the most daunting prospects to the wider distribution of any alcohol sensor implementation.

Sensors Disable Ignition if Alcohol Levels are Too High

The sensors would lock a car’s ignition system if the driver were too impaired to drive legally. The actual design varies. Some sensors are placed in the steering wheel and measure blood-alcohol content through the oils on a driver’s hands. Other sensors could go in the rear-view mirror and monitor a driver’s eye movements before the car starts. Breath analyzers are also an option as part of the alcohol sensor research.

Some Groups Concerned About Accuracy

Some groups are worried about the effectiveness and fairness of the proposed alcohol sensors. The groups express fear that the sensors will never be able to be fully accurate, which could leave sober drivers unable to start their cars in some situations. These groups propose that alcohol related car accidents would decrease if law enforcement simply did a better job of policing the posted speed limit. A large majority of alcohol related accidents occur because the impaired driver was speeding. These groups believe that more money should be directed toward controlling traffic speed than developing new technology that could malfunction and leave a legal driver unable to operate a motor vehicle.

Alcohol-Related Accidents Expensive for Everyone Involved

An alcohol related accident costs more than a typical accident in several ways. Since most of these accidents occur at high speeds, there are higher medical costs due to more severe injuries. Passengers who are injured face months or years of rehabilitation. The damage to the vehicles is usually more severe as well. Drivers convicted of operating a vehicle while impaired face much higher fines. They could even face manslaughter charges if there is a fatality. Anyone convicted of a DUI faces incredibly high insurance rates for several years. In some states, drivers who have more than one DUI on their record could lose the privilege to drive altogether.

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