Technology designed to prevent drunk driving

Louisiana residents are likely aware that drunk drivers cause thousands of deaths and injuries on the nation's roads every year. Authorities have traditionally approached the problem with a combination of public awareness campaigns highlighting the dangers of drunk driving and stricter enforcement of DWI laws, but new technology proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on June 4 could also play a valuable role. The technology detects alcohol in a driver's blood, and it is designed to prevent vehicles from operating when a BAC of .08 percent or above is detected.

The technology is able to measure BAC levels in two ways. The first method uses sensors in the steering wheel or driver's door to measure alcohol in a driver's breath. Alcohol molecules absorb light differently to carbon dioxide molecules, and beams of infrared light are used to measure the proportion of these molecules in a breath sample. The second method of detecting alcohol also uses infrared light, but measurements are taken by touch sensors placed on the vehicle's dashboard.

A NHTSA representative said that the technology could be adjusted to measure lower blood alcohol levels in vehicles driven by individuals under 21 years of age, and he urged car makers to consider including the alcohol detection systems in new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has also advocated for the adoption of the technology. The nonprofit organization says that such systems could save as many as 7,000 lives every year.

Establishing liability is often a challenge when lawsuits are filed in connection with car or motorcycle accidents, but meeting this burden may be more straightforward when an intoxicated driver is involved. A personal injury attorney may scrutinize police reports and the results of toxicology tests to determine whether or not alcohol consumption contributed to a crash. When an intoxicated driver is killed in an accident, an attorney could file a claim against their estate or insurance company.

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