Smart cars are about to get safer. The NHTSA created a program to prevent drunk drivers from operating their vehicles. If the project proves successful, it could eliminate drunk driving.

Cars With Driver Alcohol Detection May Prevent Drunk Driving

The new program is titled Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), and it features technology embedded in the steering wheel. The technology includes a breathalyzer mounted on the steering wheel and an engine start button that uses infrared light to detect blood alcohol levels. The systems will operate passively. If the system concludes that the driver is over the legal alcohol limit, it won’t allow the car to start.

Congress and industry support program

It’s currently prototype phase, and it still has a long way to go. Mark Rosekind, administrator for the NHTSA, admits that there is still much to be done. He added that support from both the industry and Congress aims to prevent drunk driving within specific populations. The program is the brainchild of the NHTSA and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.

The DADSS is just one part of the solution. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox explained that education, enforcement, and awareness have already significantly reduced the number of drunk driving fatalities, but having a DADSS installed in cars could further reduce that number.

Driver Alcohol Detection could help young drivers

According to Rosekind, the DADSS could prove beneficial for teen drivers and commercial fleets. Safety is a priority, and creating this technology could improve overall road safety. Each year, alcohol-related crashes make up for 10,000 deaths in the United States. Those numbers in the United Kingdom are much lower. In 2012, there were an estimated 230 deaths related to drunk driving.

The NHTSA reports that the program started in 2008. It involves three phases. The first phase involved research and analysis of different technologies for cars to determine driver alcohol levels. The second phase involves more research and testing of alcohol detection sensors for use in cars. The last phase focuses on the refinement of the technologies.