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.

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

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