According to a new study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the mass installation of alcohol-detection systems in most vehicles could save as many as 9,000 lives each year in the United States.
These devices are able to determine the blood alcohol content (BAC) level in a driver’s blood and if it’s above a certain percentage, prevent the vehicle from moving. These are the same devices that many parts of the country require installed in the vehicles of people convicted of DUI, and usually take the form of a breath-testing unit attached to an ignition interlock.
Other types of devices that do the same thing are also being tested for possible use, including one that measures the ambient air in a vehicle and detects alcohol percentages. The number of lives and the amount of money that could be saved by such devices would go a long way to improving the safety of our roadways.
Drunk driving is a big problem in the United States. It’s been determined that alcohol impairment was a factor in 30% of all traffic fatalities in the U.S., each year for the past decade.
According to Charles Farmer, the IIHS vice president of research and statistical services who conducted the research, “We haven’t made much progress in the fight against drunk driving since the mid-1990s.”
To conduct the study, Farmer looked at fatal motor vehicle accidents over the years 2015 to 2018, and made specific risk calculations taking into account accidents that may have happened even if the drivers were not intoxicated. Farmer found that the relative risk of being in a fatal accident changes based on a driver’s age and BAC. For drivers aged 16 to 21 with a BAC level of 0.09%, there is a 60% greater risk of being killed in a car accident, than for sober drivers in the same age group. As the age group gets older, the percentage of risk goes down.
He determined that over the period of time from 2015 to 2018, almost 38,000 deaths could have been avoided if the driver’s BAC levels had been below the legal limit for most states, at 0.08%. So it’s clear that drunk driving takes a massive toll in the U.S.
But, outside of people convicted of DUI who have been ordered by the state to have these alcohol detection systems put in the vehicles, would the average person be willing to have one of these put in their own vehicles voluntarily? Surprisingly, in a 2009 survey conducted of drivers in the United States, as many as two thirds of those surveyed said they would support the installation of these systems in all motor vehicles, just a long as it was a relatively painless process.
Regardless of public support, there are organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety project, that may be able to speed up the process of including these devices on all vehicles, by putting pressure on manufacturers, as they have done in the past with automated emergency braking systems and side airbags.
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