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Can Impaired Driving Accidents Be Avoided by Safe Cars?

According to statistics compiled by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 30 people die in alcohol-related car crashes every single day. That’s a drunk driving fatality every 51 minutes, accounting for one third of all vehicle deaths. Not only does drunk drinking costs lives, the financial cost of alcohol-related crashes tops out at nearly $59 billion annually.

Although stricter laws and anti-drunk driving campaigns help to cut-down on impaired driving, driving while intoxicated is still a major public safety issue. To significantly reduce cases of driving under the influence, many are now proposing new car designs that would include a mandatory, pre-installed alcohol ignition interlock system.

Drunk Drivers and Beyond

In short, an alcohol ignition interlock system is a sobriety-screening device that requires drivers to pass an in-car breathalyzer before they are allowed to start the car.

Installing an interlock ignition system is already a common condition for license reinstatement after DUI convictions…and they have proven effective. However, this is a consequence that only affects people who have already been convicted of a DUI. Instead of a “condition,” the new proposal would simply be a new car “feature.”

Proposals of mandatory interlock ignition systems are not new, however the technology for population-wide use has been limiting in the past. Older systems have been bulky and inconvenient, so mandating a driver use one – without any prior wrongdoing – has been met with resistance. However, new technological advances may make systems convenient enough for widespread use.

Present systems require drivers to blow for long periods of time before cranking the car and while they’re driving. The newly proposed systems read blood alcohol levels under one second using infrared light technology.

Wave of the Future?

Over a 15-year implementation period, as old cars are replaced by new cars with sobriety screening systems, the American Journal of Public Health estimates that mandatory ignition interlock systems could prevent 59,000 alcohol-related fatalities, 1.25 million injuries and save $340 billion in costs.

Proponents also claim that if the technology intervention were implemented across the population, any extra sticker cost associated with the technology would be negligible. In fact, supporters suggest the technology would pay for itself, on a nation-wide level, within three years.

Developers admit the technology necessary for mandated systems is still 5 to 8 years away, but the cars of tomorrow may very well increase driver safety for everyone on the road.


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