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Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) proposed a series of guidelines aimed at combating drunk driving in the United States. The board is encouraging the development of in-vehicle technology that has the potential to save thousands of lives every year.
There are three key components to the NTSB’s proposed guidelines, which have yet to gain traction in the court of public opinion: ignition interlock devices, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, and highway design to prevent wrong-way collisions.
Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs)
An IID is a breathalyzer mounted on the dashboard of a vehicle, which tests the driver’s breath. If alcohol is detected, the car will not start. Early versions of the IID were criticized because someone other than the driver — who was presumably sober — could blow into the device and enable the ignition. However, updated versions of the device obtain periodic ambient air samples to make sure the driver is not intoxicated.
The NTSB recommends that all 50 states require IIDs for every driver who has been charged with a DWI. Yet, to date, only 17 states have implemented the use of IIDs for first-time offenders, and the device is only required for a third of convicted drunk drivers in the United States.
Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS)
The DADSS is another promising piece of technology that, once perfected, could play an important role in reducing drunk driving fatalities. Testing drivers via breath or touch, the board recommends DADSS as standard equipment on all motor vehicles, effectively eliminating drunk driving, and potentially saving more than 7,000 lives every year.
Opponents to the universal use of IIDs and DADSS assert that drivers will no longer be able to drive after having a single drink with dinner, making it impossible to engage in responsible social drinking. They believe IIDs should only be mandatory for convicted DWI/DUI offenders. Other critics point out that IIDs do not have the capability to detect a driver’s use of illicit drugs.
Highway Design and Wrong-Way Drivers
Each year, roughly 300 people die from motorists driving the wrong way on divided highways — particularly lethal because 80 percent of these collisions are head-on, and happen at high rates of speed.
The NTSB states that intoxication and advanced age are key factors in wrong-way crashes. According to the NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, a large portion of wrong-way collisions included intoxicated drivers.
“Our study revealed high levels of impairment,” board Chairman Deborah Hersman said. “More than half of the impaired drivers…had a [blood-alcohol content] of more than twice the legal limit.”
Highway design is an important contributor to wrong-way collisions, because it is easy for drivers to enter highways in the wrong direction, along with cloverleaf interchanges. The board recommends highway designs with improved street markings, signs and lighting to alert drivers who may be entering highways in the wrong direction.
Author Bio –
Criminal Defense Attorney Steven Budke practices in Minnesota and specialises in clients charged with a DWI.