One day, a friend might not have to take your car keys away if you overindulge. Instead, it could be up to your car to determine whether you're sober enough to drive. Researchers now are working on the development of two different technologies that could automatically detect your blood-alcohol content (BAC) either through your touch or your breath. "There's a lot of promise if a system can be developed that would stop any driver that's been drinking from getting on the road," says Russ Rader, senior vice president for communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently extended its agreement with automobile manufacturers to develop the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). The system would detect if your BAC was above the legal limit of 0.08 percent and prevent you from driving if it's too high.
High-tech devices to tell if you're too intoxicated to drive
This technology would be unlike current alcohol-detecting ignition interlock systems, which might be outfitted in someone's vehicle if he's convicted of driving under the influence. Those systems require the driver to blow into a tube and prevent the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected. Rader calls the current devices, "a very clunky system," while the DADSS project is working to develop "unobtrusive detection when a driver is impaired by alcohol." "It's important that the system be accurate, unobtrusive and completely reliable," Rader says. The aim is to "stop a drunk driver from getting on the road in the first place, rather than arresting them after the fact, or worse yet, after a crash," he says. Right now, alcohol is a factor in about one-third of fatal crashes. In 2012, crash deaths involving drunken drivers topped 10,000, up nearly 5 percent from the previous year, according to NHTSA.