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New technology designed to prevent fatal alcohol-related crashes

Driving while intoxicated presents a grave danger to people on Maryland roads. Nearly 11,000 people are killed each year in the United States as a result of alcohol-related automobile accidents, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That figure representing about one in every three traffic fatalities.

With drunken driving claiming so many lives, government officials with the NHTSA and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, a safety-oriented group of automakers, have established a $10 million dollar grant to fund research into new technology to prevent intoxicated drivers from getting on the road.

Now, a new alcohol-detection device has been unveiled that uses automatic sensors to detect a driver's blood-alcohol concentration. If a driver's blood-alcohol concentration is above the legal limit of 0.08, the device prevents the vehicle from starting.

Called the Driver Alcohol Detection Systems for Safety, or DADSS, the device is still in the prototype phase in its development, and will not be commercially available for eight to ten years. However, it is being hailed as a potential life saver. David Strickland, the head of the NHTSA, attended the unveiling of DADSS and he believes the technology could prevent as many as 9,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities per year.

The vehicle ignition interlock devices presently in use require a driver to blow into a tube to measure the driver's blood-alcohol concentration. DADSS is designed to be less intrusive by automatically checking a driver's blood-alcohol concentration by either scanning a driver's breath or scanning the skin on the driver's fingertips.

Proponents of the system do not foresee the technology being mandated by the government. Rather, they believe the devices will become as commonplace as airbags or anti-lock brakes through insurance incentive programs that will lower a driver's premium when the device is installed.

Source: ABC2News.com, "Company developing technology to allow cars to detect when driver is drunk," 1/28/2011

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