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New Technologies to Reduce DUIs

Posted in Drunk Driving

Law enforcement has a tough job keeping the roads safe by preventing drunk drivers from harming themselves and others. Vigilance has been the by-word of police safety, but state-of-the art technology could prove to be the best preventive tool in the officers’ employ.

Inebriated drivers are responsible for a half million injuries and over 11,000 deaths each year. That figure works out to nearly one fatality every minute. Tough drunk driving laws and stiff penalties for DUIs are having their intended effect, which is to reduce the number of drunk drivers. Unfortunately, those legal initiatives are effective for everyone except repeat offenders. And one-third of all drivers who are convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders.

Police and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are open to new ideas to address this serious problem. Thankfully, there are plenty of new ideas. Some of them are based on previously proven methods and some are strikingly innovative. Some provide datum that is admissible as evidence in court and some provide datum that is not.

Ignition Interlock Device

One device that has been used successfully for the past 20 years is the Ignition Interlock Device. This device is secured to the offender’s car and requires that the driver breathe into the unit in order for the engine to start. If the device detects alcohol on the driver’s breath the engine will not start. The device remains operational as long as the car is in motion and requires the driver to continue to breathe into the machine to check for any presence of alcohol. If at any point the machine detects alcohol, the device alerts police. In the newest models, the car shuts down immediately.

Alcohol Sensing Flashlight

A newer tool for detecting alcohol on a driver’s breath is the Alcohol Sensing Flashlight. Police officers can carry these flashlights just as they would carry another flashlight. The difference is that these flashlights can detect alcohol on a driver’s breath from up to one foot away. Green lights indicate a minute presence of alcohol while red lights indicate a greater alcohol presence. The colored lights are inadmissible in court, but can give an officer probable cause for administering a sobriety test.

Normally, the officer would need to take the suspected drunk driver to a hospital or police station in order to administer the test that measures BAC (blood alcohol content). Now, officers can perform that task immediately on the scene with the Intoxilyzer 8000. This device is highly portable and yields datum that is admissible in court.

Other Tools

Fingerprint activation is an automated system in which the driver is able to engage the car engine with fingerprint identification followed by the performance of a series of motor skills demonstrating sobriety.

One last tool is Continuous Alcohol Monitoring. This is a system based on the Ignition Interlock Device but instead of measuring alcohol via the driver’s breath, an ankle bracelet determines BAC through sweat by means of a transdermal alcohol sensor. The information is transmitted to remote sensors for police monitoring.

There are approximately 1.4 million DUI arrests made each year but surprisingly, courts fail to order use of these tools (fewer than 10% of cases) to keep drunk drivers from becoming habitual offenders. The tools are there and the officers could use the help.