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By Jim Adler July 24, 2015

Drunk drivers, who kill 10,000 Americans every year, have slaughtered more of us than have all our enemies in all wars combined. That’s worth waging another war to protect ourselves, and that war has a new weapon: a Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS.

The DADSS sensor system was unveiled in June 2015 by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a joint effort of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), which represents 17 auto manufacturers. DADSS’ creators call it “one of the most important government and private sector partnerships in recent years.”

Breath Sensor, Touch Sensor

DADSS involves a breath sensor and a touch sensor. Mounted on the steering column or the driver’s side door, the breath sensor can detect in moments if the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more, the legal limit in all 50 states. If that’s the case, the car won’t start. (The sensor will distinguish between the driver’s breath and passengers’ breath.)

The touch sensor is a button which also can measure BAC. It does this by shining an infrared light on the finger to measure BAC below the surface of the skin. This button can be on the car’s start button or on its steering wheel or gear shift.

NHTSA head Mark Rosekind points out that drunk driving kills someone in America every 58 minutes. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. And soon, we might have a technology that essentially takes the keys out of drunk drivers’ hands before they can hurt or kill our neighbors and loved ones.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) national president Colleen Sheehey-Church calls DADSS sensors “the future, when drunk drivers will be unable to drive their car.”

Safety Options in Five Years

The NHTSA hopes the devices can be safety options on vehicles within the next five years, although others suggest development and refinement of DADSS could take longer. NHTSA officials see the system as a “voluntary, non-regulatory countermeasure to reduce drunk driving.”

DADSS has been in development by the NHTSA and ACTS since 2008 and now is in Phase II, with Phase III about to begin. Meanwhile, individual automakers are researching and developing their own anti-drunk driving technologies.

Currently, DUI offenders in all 50 states are required to install “ignition interlock devices” in their car. This involves drivers breathing into a tube which measures their BAC and won’t start the vehicle if it’s too high.

In 21 states an ignition interlock device is required after a first offense, says the National Council of State Legislators. It’s possible that DADSS devices could replace ignition interlock devices.

The new DADSS sensor system would draw an airborne breath sample just after the driver enters the vehicle, then analyze it instantly and deny use of the car if the driver’s BAC was .08 or above. Or, the measurement could come via the driver pressing the system’s touch sensor.

Zero-Tolerance for Minors

In the case of minors, DADSS sensors could be set up to have zero-tolerance if any alcohol is detected. The NHTSA also sees DADSS as beneficial to owners of commercial fleets.

But not everyone is on board with this new safety measure — not when profits can be made without it.

The American Beverage Institute (ABI), which has 8,000 member restaurants, is afraid that the NHTSA will push to get DADSS technology placed in all U.S. vehicles, not just in some as a safety option. The ABI asserts that moderate drinkers then may not be able to drive due to DADSS and will be unfairly punished by the device after a momentary measurement.

Again: At least 10,000 Americans are killed each year by drunk drivers.

Unlike the ABI, the NHTSA’s primary concern is to save lives. The same can be said of Jim Adler & Associates, whose car accident lawyers support the rights of Texans injured in drunk driver accidents and can help them get the payments and justice they need and deserve.

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