• Jun 28th 2010 at 12:31PM
  • 109

The New York Times
reports that the U.S. Congress is considering a six-fold increase in the annual funding of in-car devices to detect drunk drivers. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety program's budget would increase from $2 million per year to $12 million for the next five years, likely expediting the development of an effective device.

History suggests that such a device would save thousands of lives. In 2008 alone, nearly 12,000 people died in alcohol-impaired car crashes. Many of those deaths would likely be preventable if there were a way for a vehicle system to seamlessly detect elevated alcohol levels in drivers. Scientists are working on a device that could instantly detect a driver's blood alcohol level by reading alcohol levels on the breath or use a light beam to assess alcohol levels on the skin.

Program Director Susan Ferguson says that said device should be "very fast, very accurate, highly reliable and precise," adding that achieving a high level of precision is going to take a lot of money. Ferguson feels that the alcohol detection system could be the safety equivalent of the next seatbelt, suggesting that it could save 8,000 to 9,000 lives per year.

A total of 13 automakers are behind the project as well, and the goal is for drivers to voluntarily add the mechanism to their vehicles as an added safety measure. We're guessing that adding such a system could greatly reduce the cost to insure the vehicle, giving drivers a financial incentive to add the device. Of course, adding the cost of the device to new cars will likely cost automakers (and in turn, consumers) a fair bit of money, but the hope is that reduced insurance costs could cover the difference.

What do you think, are in-car alcohol detectors a good idea? Cast your vote in our survey below and leave your thoughts in Comments.

Congress is reportedly pondering in-car alcohol detectors. Is this a good idea?
Yes, it's about time. 3529 (31.3%)
No, it's not a good idea. 5864 (52.0%)
I'm not sure. 1893 (16.8%)

[Source: The New York Times | Image: Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm down for this because i think we over compensate in auto safety regulations as a direct result of alcohol-related crashes that shouldn't be happening in the first place.

      look it up, because it's absolutely true. airbags, etc...designed to protect those who cant protect themselves from their own stupidity.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't drink and I'm the only one who drives my car, therefore, this is of no use to me.

      Does that mean that either I pay to have it in my car anyways? Or, I pay higher insurance because I don't have one in my car?
      • 5 Years Ago
      BOOM! +1
      • 5 Years Ago
      Long overdue, we need to be protected from these predators who drink and drive. I am sure we will reduce fatalities by thousands a year.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The idea is decent, but the execution sounds ridiculous. Most of the folks I've met that drive drunk know they're over the limit and do it anyways. They don't strike me as the types that would willingly add an alcohol detector to their car regardless of what the insurance difference is.

        I've always said if you make the penalties bad enough, people will stop risking it. Not too many people would be willing to drive drunk if the minimum penalty was a felony conviction with 1 year in prison and a 5 year license suspension.
        • 5 Years Ago
        How about we simply mandate it for anybody ever convicted of a DUI?

        What next? Mandated 75mph speed limiters?

        I'm thinking retro cars are going to be even more valuable simply to avoid the nannying.
        • 5 Years Ago

        "I don't drink, so why should I pay more for a vehicle with this in it, then waste my time every time I get in the car."

        Well i am a careful driver and i know how to avoid other cars on the road, why am i stuck paying for airbags?

        I am sure this device will cost $50-$25 and it will probably lower insurance so the devise will pay for itself. But think of the number of lives that will be saved.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Well i am a careful driver and i know how to avoid other cars on the road, why am i stuck paying for airbags? "

        Erm, because not all accidents are you own fault? Because airbags are an added safety measure? Breathilizer does nothing for your own safety if you never drive drunk. And the whole (faulty) assumption is that drunkards would all faithfully use this device, too.

        In-car breathilizer are pointless, because drunks are defying the law to begin with. If they're stupid enough to drive drunk, why would they all of a sudden abide by the law by installing a breathilizer? And there's no way you can retroactively install these things to every single used car, too.

        I'm all for keeping drunks off the road, this isn't how to do it.Someone earlier had the great idea of forcing drunks to have the thing installed in their car, if they're convicted. That way, they're paying it for themselves, and the rest of the people who don't drive drunk don't have to pay extra.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ xpolarx
        "I've always said if you make the penalties bad enough, people will stop risking it. Not too many people would be willing to drive drunk if the minimum penalty was a felony conviction with 1 year in prison and a 5 year license suspension."

        Totally agree, we don't have to be as aggressive as Singapore. (altho you have to admit how effective it is after the American boy got whipped) But the penalty for DUI seems ridiculously low consider how many people get killed. If it is such a serious manner, change the punishment, not play with some tech gadget that's essentially waste of money and time for people who does not even drink. That's hypocritical, don't you think?
        • 5 Years Ago
        "A total of 13 automakers are behind the project as well, and the goal is for drivers to voluntarily add the mechanism to their vehicles as an added safety measure."

        This is where the whole concept of the device fails. Those responsible enough to voluntarily add the device would likely not drive drunk in the first place. It's those irresponsible ones who have no regard for safety that would need the device. And they're probably not going to put one in.

        What might be more effective is requiring those who were ever convicted of a DWI or DUI or whatever other acronyms there are to have one installed.
        • 5 Years Ago
        fake breath? no need to buy it when you can just blow your own sober breath into a container for later use. regardless, the solution is more responsibility and, where that fails, a bouquet of alternatives, including better, more accessible, public transportation and flat fee minicabs (something quite alien to canada and the united states).
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm all for getting drunk drivers off the street, but i don't think this is the way to do it. We need to be more responsible drivers. I would be more for a device that detected major driver errors and just pulled your car off to the side of the road, turned off and told you to get out and walk. There are more stupid, uneducated drivers out there than drunks ones.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Won't be long before "fake breath" is sold to blow into the car for you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Here is why I'm against it: Once it is installed on a vehicle, it is associated with the VIN. This means if you EVER get pulled over in that vehicle, even if the owner who was the drunk was 20 years ago, cops give you a breathalyzer. That is annoying.
        • 5 Years Ago
        how about teaching responsibility and accountability for your actions, rather than foisting it off on technology so that people can then sue the manufacturers.

        simple keys at the door keep drunk drivers off teh road. you can get breathalyzers for $100. thats a bargain if you drink or party regularly and make it mandatory to get your keys back.

        stupid idea. the only people who need these in the car are repeat offenders and they have to get a machine added to their car anyway that does this
        • 5 Years Ago
        "how about teaching responsibility and accountability for your actions, rather than foisting it off on technology so that people can then sue the manufacturers."------------how can you teach a drunk responsibility?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agree; long overdue.
        I mean. Come on.. Point on your nose and walk on a line? I'd rather put my trust to a validated alcometer rather than the good judgement of the officer. "Oops, a bit bad balance.... AHA! Youre soo drunk! - Am not!"
        Besides, This has been standard equipment in the rest of the modern world for the better part of almost two decades. It's faster, more reliable and you could still apply the better judgement of an officer. It's a win for everybody, no matter on how you look at it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The issue is that they would become very easy to bypass, and after that, it's just extra equipment in my vehicle that I don't want.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Bad Idea!

        Every second matters when ZOMBIES attack and you need to get away fast!

        The current generation of these things costs $1,500 or so...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Police should sit at Bars and make everyone that goes out take a breath test. Fine the person take away the car and the revenue would finance alot of great programs. Oh thats profiling!!! We cannot do that. Instead Make EVERYONE pay for a device that will be able to be defeated by the people that we are afraid of. Or lets make a one time DUI of forfeture of license, and car forever. Oh that would hurt the liquor industry. Bummer. Oh lets just be responsible that would be the easy way out. Oh that wont work either. What a bunch of idiots. We have to protect ourselfs from the very people that talk about loss of freedom and rights.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is not where our government needs to be spending money.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "I've always said if you make the penalties bad enough, people will stop risking it. Not too many people would be willing to drive drunk if the minimum penalty was a felony conviction with 1 year in prison and a 5 year license suspension."----Agree 100%, but as always politicos are not interested in acting.
      • 5 Years Ago
      But how is congress going to get where they need to go?
        • 5 Years Ago
        What are you thinking?! These laws don't apply to the elite. The rich and the famous can sidestep laws like this while everyone looks the other way. Besides, members of congress can just use our tax dollars to hire an overpriced chauffeur.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Not a good idea. Where does it stop? Don't punish the people that are responsible, just punish the ones that do drink and drive.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You can still CHOOSE public transportation, but we cannot continue to put nannies on everything. What if it doesn't stop at driving and continues into every aspect of our lives? Risks are a part of life, and if you think that driving is so dangerous that technology should control it and not people, than you can choose not to drive at all, but you cannot choose for other people.
        • 5 Years Ago
        should be 'isn't', sorry it was a typo

        Fighting for everyones rights( including you) is self absorbed? Right.....

        You still haven't answered my question: Where does it stop?
        • 5 Years Ago
        The problem is that a drunk driver usually has to be DRIVING DRUNK ALREADY before you can punish them, thus they might kill someone before they run into a cop.

        You "enthusiasts" are stupid, just so very, very stupid.

        This is a great idea, and I'd install one if it did save decent money on insurance.

        And just a reminder for you nimrods; Driving isn't a right, never has been.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I said "ISN'T A RIGHT", you people can't even read.

        The 'im responsible' argument is stupid by self-absorbed people.

        Like I said, you should get hit by a first time drunk driver, see how far your personal responsibilty gets you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thank you Satn (Could short for Satan? Isn't that conveeeenient! [/Church Lady])

        Thank you for showing us all exactly the mentality of every tyrant who has ever oppressed other people. Oppress people before they do anything, just in case they might.

        This is EXACTLY the mentality that the US Constitution was written to curtail, because people like this get into government, and try to decide everything for everyone, and try to pre-convict people of crimes they don't commit, and punish everyone with no discernment.

        That is tyranny, not justice.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "This is a great idea, and I'd install one if it did save decent money on insurance. "

        What if it cost you $400 extra and you go no discount on your insurance? Would you install it then?
        • 5 Years Ago
        You still called it a right after acknowledging it's not a right....so you must be stupid.

        So are trains and buses communist too? Someone else is doing the driving for you. And those damn communist taxis and limos.

        You people are just so stupid when it comes to knowing rights and politics. It's like a Young Republicans convention in this forum.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Bad idea, even in the open-control world of cars. At least it is voluntary. And since there is no push whatsoever (just lip service) to stem the equally dangerous in-car phone usage, it is only a political stunt proffered by people who care little about safety.
        • 5 Years Ago

        I'll pass on this as well. If I pay good money for a car, and have no history of driving under the influence-- why should they impose this "It's not they we don't trust you... but we don't." device on my vehicle?

        This is much like gun control laws. The criminals will work around the system, while the law abiding systems will take the hit.

        Yet another example of an ever-growing government. Imposing regulations on the masses because of an ignorant minority. I'm sure the government will allow for provisions to bypass the device by paying an additional small fee each time you start your car (via their new in-car debit machine).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Totally a bad idea. It would be one thing if a car manufacturer voluntarily offered this safety feature (much like the Ford MyKey speed reduction and audio limit functions for certain drivers), but having a congressional mandate on the matter is ridiculous.

        Whatever happened to personal responsibility? I appreciate the cause to reduce drunk driving fatalities and make our roads safer, but babysitting the public just makes things worse.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't see this as succeeding. Drunks who don't care will bypass the system or refuse to install it. If it's a breath-based system, just blow up a balloon before going to the bar/partying and then use that balloon on the sensor rather than actually blowing into it. People figure out ways around stuff they don't like. Responsible people wouldn't drive drunk anyway. If I was forced to put one on my car I'd be mad - I don't drive drunk and wouldn't like more electronic junk in my car to potentially go wrong...
      • 5 Years Ago
      "reduce insurance costs to cover the difference"? HA! fat chance. insurance companies will just raise the premiums in other parts of the policy to cover their asses for costs.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Indeed. Once acclimated to certain methods of revenue generation, many, if not most businesses don't repeal them in the interest of accomodating the consumer so much as they try to tack them on elsewhere. I'll believe the savings when I see them. . .on someone else's policy. As much as I despise drinking, I wouldn't install this device in any vehicle I own unless by some outside chance, I'm convicted of DWI because I'm truly beginning to tire of government marginalizing personal accountability. No one, myself included, was born with an 80+ year guarantee on their lifespan or quality of life. Inconsiderate as it may sound, I accept that if in return, I'm able to make personal decisions based on my own recognizance with decency.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You are assuming that it will be a fool-proof system.

      If it is 100% accurate, as in it won't penalize me for using mouthwash or eating a pizza, and it is 100% undetectable, as in I won't even know it is there, then I have no problem with it.

      Also, this will likely increase the price of new cars, which indeed penalizes everyone, regardless of whether they drink or not.

      My father is an alcoholic, and my sister was killed by a drunk driver. Despite these two facts, I am not in support of a device such as this, because there is too much potential for it to be misused or abused, and various other things could potentially go wrong. Right or wrong, that is just my opinion on this matter as of now. My opinion could possibly change if I was given some guarantees on certain aspects of the systems accuracy. Being someone who does not drink, ever, I do not want to be penalized for a safety feature in my car that is not necessary.

      Judging by your other comments in this thread, you seem to think that anyone who disagrees with your point of view is either brain-damaged or just plain ignorant. I have had the "privilege" of knowing a lot of people with your mind-set. People who think they are always right, and refuse to listen to anyone elses point of view, or simply dismiss differing viewpoints as "ignorance". There are many potential factors here that you and the rest of us are not aware of. Blindly coming into a discussion and insisting that you are right without looking into other points of view or doing any investigating into the subject is the true definition of ignorance.

      You may or may not have some valid points, but resorting to name calling and assuming that your opinion is the only one that matters is a sign of intellectual weakness, and it destroys any credibility that your comments and opinions on the matter might have.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sorry, this was directed at satn.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If this is such a great idea, why don't the 13 auto companies do it themselves on their own dime?

      I could maybe support having an interface for a device like this in every car. But the device shouldn't be part of the car and the cost shouldn't be part of the car cost, put it in the add-on device.

      And no, I wouldn't install one, but if others want to, then fine.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Simple. If they put the device in of their own volition and they don't work properly or the user finds away around them, the auto companies are open to a lawsuit. If the government mandates them, there's a better chance that they will be exempt from such a lawsuit, or at least it will be much harder for a lawyer to successfully sue them, as their defense will be "Hey we followed the government regulations to the letter."
      • 5 Years Ago
      Dear Government,
      Please stay out of my car.
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