U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Bob Corker (R-TN) have introduced legislation designed to reduce the number of drunk driving crashes and fatalities on America’s roads. The Roads Safe Act would provide $12 million in annual funding over 5 years to develop new technologies to prevent drivers from operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol.
The bi-partisan approach is commendable and enhances the chances of the bill’s passage. The two lawmakers have plenty of support including from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
In 2008 alone, drunk driving killed 11,773 people nationwide. It is estimated that 8,000 lives could be saved each year if all vehicles were equipped with advanced alcohol detection technology.
The new technologies include devices that determine a driver’s blood alcohol level by touching the steering wheel or engine start button, as well as sensors that passively monitor a driver’s breath or eye movements. If the sensors indicated that the driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit, the vehicle would not start.
Currently, many motorists convicted of driving while intoxicated must pay for and install an ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock device is similar to a Breathalyzer machine and is installed onto the dashboard of a car. The driver must blow a “clean breath sample” into the device for the car to start and periodically must provide “rolling” tests. The device detects between .02 to .04 of blood alcohol level. The cost to install is between $50 and $200 and carries a monthly rental charge of around $50 to $100 per month. The Safe Roads Action would work towards developing a cheaper and less intrusive option.