Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, especially among younger Americans, yet decades of "Don’t Drink and Drive" messaging haven’t put an end to the practice. More promising than billboards and educational programs, technology promises a better path forward. Devices that could prevent inebriated drivers from getting behind the wheel already exist.
The real problem, though, is resistance to making such tech mandatory.
Identify Drunk Drivers
For several years now, individuals with a history of drunk driving have occasionally had BAC-measuring devices installed in their vehicles to prevent them from driving if they’ve consumed alcohol.
That’s all well and good.
But, many people drive while intoxicated without ever being caught.
Under the Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act, members of congress sought to fund research into touch- and breath-based driver monitoring systems. These systems would measure the driver’s BAC and lock the car if it is over the legal limit.
One downfall of BAC measuring systems is that research has found many car crashes involve drivers who have consumed alcohol, but whose BAC is below the legal limit – and among these cases, more than half resulted in the death of someone other than the driver. This raises questions about the value of current BAC metrics, and whether it would be wise to lower that limit, in addition to installing BAC measuring devices.
Preventing Crashes — And Their Consequences
Accident prevention technology has many advantages, starting with preventing deaths and injuries, but these tools don’t stop there. They can also protect people from the long-term consequences of a DUI conviction. A DUI conviction, after all, leads to much more than just a fine or a few points against the driver’s license. Depending on what state one resides in, anyone convicted of a DUI can lose their license for up to two years on a first offense, serve jail time, and result in loss of employment. A private lawyer can fight to keep this conviction off the driver’s record, but wouldn’t it be better to prevent such behaviors in the first place?
A New Standard
While the RIDE legislation supported research into BAC measuring tools, it isn’t the only law seeking to change the design of new cars in favor of safety. In the U.S. House of Representatives, legislators are also proposing that, beginning in 2024, all new cars come standard with passive BAC measuring systems.
Making such technology standard in new cars would go a long way toward removing drunk drivers from the road, but it would be many more years until the majority of cars in use had such technology. Still, every step to remove dangerous drivers from the road is a step in the right direction. Every time an inebriated driver gets behind the wheel, they put themselves and everyone else at risk. Since we have the technology to lock cars against use by intoxicated drivers, it would be irresponsible not to implement it.
The greatest barriers to these bills is sure to be the car manufacturers, who are consistently resistant to new mandates, but with lives on the line, legislators are hopeful they’ll be able to gain traction. Like seatbelts and airbags, BAC sensors are a matter of public safety, and it should be up to legislators to enforce their use.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. Read Lary Alton's Reports — More Here.
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