Drunk driving prevention technology receives federal push

pCopBreathalizer_19225836_sIn the United States, the alcohol-related fatalities occurring in car accidents exceeded 10,000 in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Illinois, alcohol-related fatalities comprised 41 percent of all traffic fatalities for the year. This rise in deaths led the federal government to increase funds allocated to research for developing advanced ignition interlock technology.

An ignition interlock is currently an aftermarket device installed in a vehicle to prevent the engine from starting unless the driver’s breath alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the point set on the device. To ensure that someone other than the driver is not blowing into the device, it requires repeat tests throughout the drive. If the driver fails one of these tests, the car shuts down. Lawmakers hope the new interlock devices developed from the current research will become standard features on every automobile.

Automated sensors may lower first time offender rates

The primary characteristic of the new technology is the automated nature of the sensors. A driver would not have to physically blow into a device. The sensors under development are highly sensitive, so that the BAC level of the person behind the wheel would be detected through the breath regardless of the driver’s desire to participate.  Another potential device includes a sensor on the steering wheel to detect BAC levels through the skin. Researchers believe it may take up to 10 years for the technology to be fully developed, approved and installed in every new vehicle, in spite of the extra funding provided by the government.

Ignition interlock devices have national support

The government has funded the new research based on the success of current breath analyzer ignition interlock devices. One-third of all DUI arrests are repeat offenders, and the aftermarket installation of these devices in vehicles of people arrested for drunk driving has lowered the rate of repeat convictions by 65 percent.

Every state in the country has a law concerning ignition interlocking devices. Fifteen states require them after the first DUI or DWI arrest. Illinois does not mandate the device for the first offense, but incentives that include shorter license suspension and fine reduction encourage installation on the first conviction. Based on the lower repeat offender rate for the installation of current ignition interlock devices, lawmakers believe that drunk driving will see a reduction of more than 70 percent when the new systems become widespread.

An individual who sustained a serious injury in an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash may be entitled to compensation covering medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. Chicago injury attorneys can provide advice on the best way to proceed.

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