TOKYO (AP) -- Toyota is developing a fail-safe system for cars that detects drunken drivers and automatically shuts the vehicle down if sensors pick up signs of excessive alcohol consumption, a news report said.

Cars fitted with the detection system will not start if sweat sensors in the driving wheel detect high levels of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream, according to a report carried by the mass-circulation daily, Asahi Shimbun.

The system could also kick in if the sensors detect abnormal steering, or if a special camera shows that the driver's pupils are not in focus. The car is then slowed to a halt, the report said.

The world's No. 2 automaker hopes to fit cars with the system by the end of 2009, according to the report. Calls to Toyota's headquarters in Nagoya rang unanswered on Wednesday, a public holiday.

Nissan Motor, another Japanese car manufacturer, has already been experimenting with breathalyzer-like devices that could detect if a driver was drunken. Similar technologies, such as alcohol ignition interlocks, are in use in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Concerns over drunken driving have surged in Japan following a series of alcohol-related accidents last year. In August, a drunken driver collided with another vehicle carrying a family of five, plunging them off a bridge and killing three children.

The incident prompted stepped-up roadside spot checks by police, who also plan to stiffen penalties for drunken driving.


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