The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently unveiled a vehicle built with a new auto safety technology in the works: the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). The technology, an optional safety feature that is not yet available allows the car to detect intoxication, according to the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) levels.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 10,000 people die a year in alcohol-impaired crashes, and this new safety feature will hopefully slash that figure.

The Driver Alcohol Detection System Feature

The alcohol detection feature has been in the works since 2008. The NHTSA is working with Congress and automakers to make this potentially life-saving feature a reality.

Two technologies are being explored.

  • Breath-based system: In this system, a highly sensitive sensor in the steering wheel or on the driver’s side door will detect the amount of alcohol in the driver’s breath.
  • Touch-based system: With this technology, the driver will touch a button that will read the alcohol content on the skin’s surface. The sensor, located in the gearshift or ignition button, will shine a beam of light into the finger and use the state-of-the-art technology to determine the level of alcohol in the blood.

Both technologies measure the driver’s BAC in less than one second. If the driver’s BAC is above 0.08 (the legal limit in all 50 states), the car will not operate. Cars with DADSS can also be programmed for drivers that are under 21 years of age. Because the legal limit for 15- to 20-year-old drivers is 0.0, the DADSS can be programmed for a zero tolerance policy. Parents worried that their children’s DUI criminal case will affect a car accident claim (it will) should be happy to hear about this feature.

When will the feature be made available?

"There is still a great deal of work to do, but support from Congress and the industry has helped us achieve key research and development milestones," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said.

The research will likely take another five to eight years, but, the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety Chief Rob Strassburger said that “commercialization could come at any time.” Rosekind said the NHTSA had no plans to make the DADSS mandatory.

Fifteen automakers have already reached a deal with the NHTSA to continue researching the technology. The devices will probably first be used in commercial and government fleets. Then, parents are suspected to jump quickly onboard to protect their teenage drivers.

The administration and automakers want to work out all the kinks and ensure that the technology is completely reliable before making it publicly available.

While we wait for the car detection technology for intoxication to catch up, current drivers must still share the road with negligent drunk drivers. If you experience a crash or wrongful death because of a driver under the influence, Walker, Billingsley & Bair can handle your personal injury or wrongful death claim in Iowa, call (515) 440-2852. Or, use our convenient contact form online.

Corey Walker
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With over 28 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.