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New $10M Project Could Stop Drunk Drivers

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QinetiQ North America logoA Massachusetts company named QinetiQ North America is working on new technology to keep drunk drivers off the road, CBS This Morning reports. The $10 million project could be ready by the end of the decade, and the funding for it comes from the federal government and all 16 major carmakers, CBS writes.

Bud Zaouck, who heads the project, Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), told CBS: “We have now narrowed down to two technologies, one is breath-based, and the other is touch-based.”

Michael Walsh writes in the New York Daily News that both approaches will require the driver to pass a sobriety test before starting a vehicle. He writes :

One is a sensor mounted close to the steering wheel that assesses whether the driver’s breath is above the U.S. legal limit of 0.08.

The other is a start and stop button that will gauge each driver’s alcohol level with infrared light sent into the fingertip. The sensor will also detect whether someone from the passenger seat is leaning over to press the button, Zaouck said.

“This is the single best opportunity we have to prevent 10,000 people from dying a year — the equivalent of the seat belt of our generation,” Zaouck told CBS This Morning.

The American Beverage Institute, which represents 8,000 U.S. chain restaurants, opposed the technology. CBS reports: “They worry about inaccurate sensors, saying that “targeting all Americans with alcohol sensing technology [...] could eliminate many people’s ability to have a glass of wine with dinner, a beer at a ballgame, or a champagne toast at a wedding and then drive home.”

CBS quotes Meredith Eastridge, a North Carolina resident whose unborn son was killed in October 2010 when a drunk driver speeding at 100 miles per hour hit the car she and her husband were in and critically injured them both: “If you are over the limit and get in the car, the car shouldn’t work,” Meredith said.

This blog recently reported that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for authorities to require all first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles. The Board also called for continued development of a passive alcohol-detection technology, such as DADSS.

As this blog wrote:

The board made its decision after an NTSB study found that alcohol-impaired driving is the leading cause of wrong-way driving accidents. NTSB’s study investigated National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data of nine wrong-way collisions that occurred in California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

“Wrong-way accidents are among the most deadly types of motor accidents,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said.

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