When it comes to solving society's most vexing problems, there are disagreements over the best approaches to take. Many Americans believe that legislators and other elected officials should be responsible for solving problems by passing and enforcing laws. But there are those who believe that technology can solve at least some of the problems that laws and law enforcement have been unable to effectively address.
Drunk driving is one of those problems. Every year, approximately 10,000 people are killed in drunk-driving accidents on U.S. roads. This is in spite of ever-harsher DUI laws and penalties. Ignition interlock devices have proven effective at reducing recidivism rates among convicted drunk drivers. Could they eventually prevent drunk driving altogether?
Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it is working with researchers and automakers on a prototype program called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). It features two types of alcohol detection and measurement methods that could someday become standard in all automobiles.
The first is like the breathalyzer in an ignition interlock device. Instead of blowing through a tube, however, the device just takes readings from the breath exhaled in the cab of the car. The other method involves contact with the skin while the driver presses a button. Infrared lights shined into the tissue of a person's finger could actually measure their blood-alcohol level.
The technology is at least five years away from being practically available. And there are no guarantees that DADSS would become standard in all new vehicles. But the promise of this technology is immense. Let's hope it is put to good use.