According to recent reports, Nissan is developing an ignition interlock that would deter intoxicated individuals from starting their cars and possibly causing great bodily harm to themselves or innocent bystanders should they drive drunk. Several recent high-profile, alcohol-related accidents and fatalities in Japan have brought this issue to the forefront, and Nissan appears to be one of the first Japanese automakers to address the issue.

In a meeting earlier this month, Nissan decided to follow a policy of incorporating anti-drunken driving mechanisms in future vehicles. Two such devices under consideration are a tube-like breathalyzer ignition interlock and a PIN keypad with a multi-digit code that might be tricky for an intoxicated individual to remember.

Devices such as these are readily available in the U.S. and Europe already and are often mandated for repeat DUI/DWI offenders. Anybody remember the 40-Year-Old Virgin's ride home from the bar? Although not a laughing matter, the scene points out the potential for bypassing such mechanisms so they shouldn't be considered foolproof by any means.

Although recent changes to Japanese law have seen fatal alcohol-related accidents decline substantially over the past 5 years, Nissan has had a running association with MADD as sponsor of their Strides for Change walkathon and seems determined to help reduce these types of tragedies. This year Nissan and MADD raised $2 million for the cause.

The number of fatalities from alcohol-related accidents has gone down significantly since the 1980's but with more than 16,000 such deaths in 2004, "drunk driving is the nation's most frequently committed violent crime," according to MADD.

[Sources: Drive, MADD]