Arlington, Virginia – People are ready to prevent drivers from starting their vehicles after drinking too much alcohol, even though the technology to do it isn’t available yet, according to a new survey by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). About two out of every three respondents deemed it a good or very good idea, assuming the technology is reliable, and more than 40 per cent would want such devices in their own cars if offered as an option.
“The results are clear-cut and a bit surprising,” said Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice-president for research. “We didn’t expect to find support across the board for the idea of detecting alcohol in everybody, but this survey tells us people are ready to crack down on all impaired drivers,not just those who’ve had DWI (driving while impaired) convictions.”
Nearly three out of every four respondents said they’d heard about interlocks being required in cars of people with DWI convictions. Wired to ignitions, the devices keep vehicles from starting if convicted offenders register blood alcohol readings above a predetermined level. About 180,000 interlocks are in use across the U.S. However, drivers involved in fatal crashes with illegal blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) have not had a DWI conviction in the past three years. An impediment is the device itself, with McCartt pointing out that mandated interlocks are unwieldy and obtrusive. “This is okay for convicted offenders, but not for every driver on every trip,” she said. “An alcohol detector that’s suitable for all drivers would have to be all but invisible and require virtually no upkeep. It would have to be quick and easy to use and provide accurate readings. No such device exists yet, but it’s being worked on.”
The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety program, a partnership between the National Highway Traffic Administration and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, is exploring new detection technologies that one day could be developed for widespread use.