A study released by the University of Michigan in March 2015 claims that utilizing advancements in technology could prevent 59,000 fatalities caused by drunk driving over the next 15 years. The study indicates that if innovative devices are installed on every U.S. vehicle, the technology could prevent drunk drivers from starting and operating cars and trucks.
Saving Lives and Money
Researchers for the University’s Injury Center and Transportation Research Institute concluded there would be an 85 percent reduction in the total number of traffic fatalities associated with vehicle accidents involving alcohol over the next decade and a half. This technological solution could save a significant amount of lives every year. In 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that over 10,000 individuals in the U.S. were killed in alcohol-related vehicle crashes.
There is also a significant financial savings to the preventable serious injuries and fatalities. Conclusions by the study indicate the major loss of alcohol-related accident deaths over the next 15 years would have a direct cost of over $340 million. The report suggests that installing ignition interlock technology with save significantly more money after just three years than the expense of purchasing and installing the device.
To put this technology to use nationwide would require a mandate from state or federal legislators to have the device installed as standard equipment on every newly manufactured vehicle. The move would expect to generate a positive outcome to public safety. Lead author of the University of Michigan Medical School study assistant professor Patrick Carter stated, “Our analysis clearly demonstrates a significant public health benefit and societal cost savings.”
An ignition interlocking device is not a recent technological advancement. In fact, the devices were first installed and utilized in the 1960s. The technology requires the driver to breathe into the device to capture and register any level of alcohol in their system. If the device registers alcohol content at a specific level or above, the vehicle is prevented from starting. Many courtrooms throughout the country, including in Illinois, have ordered the installation and use of the device on the vehicles of many motorists convicted of drunk driving.
A Benefit to Young Drivers
Drunk driving is a problem for individuals of every age. That said, installing the device on vehicles used by young drivers could provide significant benefits, especially those that are nearing legal drinking age or a few years older. The age group between 21 and 29 years is prone to the highest number of injuries and death compared to every other age group of drinkers and drivers. However, drivers 21 years old or younger engaging in driving drunk could benefit significantly more, because they have the highest ratio of injuries and death associated with driving while intoxicated.
Today, developing policies and interventions as a way to prevent drunk driving has been only mildly effective. However, Professor Carter believes that utilizing advancements in technology by installing sensors to detect alcohol seamlessly might prevent many needless deaths caused by drunk driving. Having the equipment installed on every newly manufactured vehicle could have an immediate positive outcome on high-risk populations that tend to be difficult to reach.
A Government Effort
The US government and commercial industries are making a proactive effort in finding ways to detect and prevent drunk driving. The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety and government agencies have created the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. The goal of the program is to make positive changes in a way drunk drivers can be stopped cold before ever starting the car or truck.
The technology uses an infrared breath analysis or fingerprint reading as biometric measures to stop intoxicated drivers from starting their vehicles. To be effective, the system must reliably and accurately detect any registered alcohol above the legal limits whenever the driver is attempting to start the vehicle.
To date, the detection system is still in its research phase. Usable data is not expected until the end of 2018. At this point, it appears as though auto manufacturers will need convincing to install the technology into new vehicles. They must first be convinced that the consumer wants the equipment enough to pay for it. So far, the alcohol detecting system can only be installed as an aftermarket device.