Safety advocates and alcohol interests are squaring off over legislation intended to reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths through the use of devices that prevent drunken drivers from starting their cars, reports Politico.com. Tucked into a pending U.S. Senate transportation bill is a provision that directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to study “more widespread deployment of in-vehicle technology” that would prevent drunken driving. The research will be carried out by the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, a collaboration between NHTSA and the automobile industry.
The idea is to develop some kind of nonintrusive technology based around touch or breathing that would be able to sense when a driver is drunk and disable the car. Technology on the market now — called “ignition interlocks” — require a driver to blow into a Breathalyzer device attached to the car's dashboard and then wait 30 seconds until the sample is analyzed. Only then will the car start. The research is trying to develop a “far less intrusive” technology more acceptable to the general public, which consumers eventually would be able to choose as an option on a new car — similar to picking leather seats or a sunroof. Another provision of the bill says if states want about 5 percent of their regularly allocated safety money, they must enact a law that requires first-time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device if they want to continue driving.