The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has extended for five years its agreement with automakers to continue researching advanced alcohol detection technology that could prevent vehicles from being driven by a drunk driver.
Under the partnership, NHTSA is working with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), comprised of 15 automakers, to develop a Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), a noninvasive system that promises to detect when a driver is above the legal alcohol limit of 0.08 BAC adopted by all 50 states and territories. The automatic system would be enabled every time the car is started, but unobtrusive so it would not pose an inconvenience to the non-intoxicated driver.
“In this age of innovation, smart technology may be the breakthrough we need to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and endangering the safety of others on our roads,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “The DADSS Research Program has shown significant promise to date, offering real potential in the future to prevent several thousand deaths annually.”
The program was authorized under The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act.
NHTSA and ACTS are contributing a combined total of $6.5 million to help advance the research into DADSS.
By early 2015, the agency hopes to have a research vehicle that incorporates two different technological approaches to measuring BAC, touch-based and breath-based. Research using laboratory-scale prototype detection devices is already underway, while testing with on-road prototype devices is expected within the next few years.
In 2012, deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6 percent, taking 10,322 lives, compared to 9,865 in 2011, according to NHTSA.
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