New drunk driving detection systems in cars could save thousands of lives

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s estimated that 10,000 people die each year in DUI related car accidents.

In order to combat that number, the Department of Transportation is unveiling new technology that would automatically detect if someone was drunk behind the wheel — and prevent them from driving.

Two different systems are being developed to keep a vehicle from starting if the driver’s alcohol level is above .08.

One — on the ignition — reads the driver’s blood alcohol content below the surface of the skin. The other system is a sensor that detects alcohol on the breath.

“It’s estimated it could be in the range of 59,000 lives over 15 years and up to $343 billion dollars in costs to our society,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D) New Mexico.

The new detection system can measure a driver’s blood alcohol level in less than one second.

One engineer refers to the new technology as “the seat belt of our generation.”

The National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving believes it could have saved her son — who was killed by a drunk driver 10 years ago.

“He would be here right now to be able to talk, and he would be 28,” said Colleen Sheehy, MADD National President.

The American Beverage Institute released a statement saying new technology should focus on repeat offenders, “not treating all Americans like criminals every time they start their cars.”

Engineers hope an option will be available for new car buyers in the next five to ten years — and say the new detection systems will cost about the same as the collision warning systems already present in cars.

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