Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report that showed in 2013 10,706 people lost their lives on the road in incidents related to alcohol use. While that was a slight drop from 2012, the figure still represented 31 percent of traffic fatalities. Now, the government agency is working to make things safer through the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety program, or simply DADSS.

The initiative is meant to use technology as a way to keep drunk drivers from operating a vehicle, and it's being previewed with two systems. First, a steering wheel-mounted breathalyzer can detect whether a person has a blood-alcohol concentration above 0.08. Also, tech in the ignition-start button uses infrared light to scan underneath someone's finger to determine the BAC. If the reading is too high, the vehicle doesn't start. The video above goes into more detail about the prototype.

According to The Detroit News, NHTSA has no intention to make this safety tech mandatory but would like for it to be available to order on new vehicles in the future. Commercial implementation is still at least five years away, but real-world testing in some government vehicles could begin sooner than that.

"DADSS has enormous potential to prevent drunk driving in specific populations such as teen drivers and commercial fleets, and making it an option available to vehicle owners would provide a powerful new tool in the battle against drunk driving deaths," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in the agency's announcement.

Not everyone is on board, though, and restaurant trade group the American Beverage Institute is lobbying against it, according to The Detroit News. The organization claims that since people process alcohol at different rates, DADSS could keep someone who just had a glass of wine with dinner from driving.
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DOT joins members of Congress, industry and safety advocates to highlight the life-saving potential of groundbreaking technology to prevent drunk driving

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Alcohol-impaired driving crashes kill nearly 10,000 people annually; this alcohol-detection vehicle technology could potentially save thousands of lives each year

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today joined with members of Congress, safety advocates and industry representatives at the U.S. Department of Transportation's headquarters to highlight advances in the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program, a research partnership between NHTSA and an industry consortium to develop technology to prevent alcohol-impaired drivers from operating their vehicles while under the influence. The event featured the unveiling of a test vehicle equipped with mock-up DADSS technology that researchers will use to examine driver interactions with the system.

"This is a perfect example of why we at DOT are bullish on technology," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Education, awareness and enforcement have succeeded in dramatically reducing drunk driving fatalities, but the advanced technology of DADSS brings enormous potential to save even more lives."

During the event, U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez and NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind discussed the future of DADSS technology with U.S. Senator Tom Udall, U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio and Nita Lowey, President and CEO of the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) Rob Strassburger, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President Colleen Sheehey-Church.

"There is still a great deal of work to do, but support from Congress and industry has helped us achieve key research and development milestones," NHTSA Administrator Rosekind said. "DADSS has enormous potential to prevent drunk driving in specific populations such as teen drivers and commercial fleets, and making it an option available to vehicle owners would provide a powerful new tool in the battle against drunk driving deaths."

Since 2008, NHTSA and ACTS have collaborated on DADSS research. In addition to a testing vehicle, the event included displays of the two technology prototypes under development – one that detects alcohol levels by touch, another by sensing the driver's breath – to show progress in maturing them for automotive use. The project's objective is to complete the necessary research within the next 5 years that would support the introduction of technologies into the vehicle fleet

"Public-private research partnerships like DADSS have led to innovations that enhance our everyday lives, such as the Internet, GPS and the microchip. Now we have our sights set on inventing a world without drunk driving," said Rob Strassburger, president and CEO of ACTS. "There's more work to be done, but through this broad coalition of support, we are driven to successfully complete this life-saving technology."

"For 35 years, MADD has worked to stop the horrible crime of drunk driving. This technology represents the future, when one day drunk driving will be relegated to the history books," said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church. "While we still have a lot of work to do, we are closer than ever to eliminating drunk driving."

For more information on the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), please visit DADSS.org.

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