If you get caught drinking and driving, your next breathalyzer could be conducted by your own car.
In most states, repeat DUI car accident offenders these days are required to equip their cars with alcohol interlocks. These interlocks prevent the car from starting up until the driver has puffed a breath into an alcohol-detecting device.
Our car accident lawyers appreciate the safety that these in-car breathalyzers provide to prevent auto accidents. One problem with these alcohol interlocks is that drivers have complained that they make driving awkward and intrude into the DUI offenders’ lives.
For instance, if the DUI offender did not drink on a particular day, and he was taking his girlfriend to the movies, his girlfriend would know that he had driven under the influence before, because to start the car, and to keep it running, he had to breathe into the interlock periodically.
Another possible car accident danger is also presented with this car accident prevention device. Since the driver needs to remember to puff into the interlock breathalyzer frequently, this will take his mind off the road. Making a driver loose focus is a potential road hazard which could lead to a traffic accident.
From another perspective, however, these interlocks are necessary. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that alcohol was involved in more than 40% of auto accident fatalities. And these locks have been working to decrease the number of drunk-driving car accidents. There was a decline of 3.7% + from 2006 to 2007 of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities according to the NHTSA.
They have another plan in mind. A representative at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said, “It’s better to prevent somebody from breaking the law, and maybe killing or injuring someone, than to arrest them after the fact and try to prevent them from doing that again.” Therefore, the NHTSA wishes to make it necessary for these alcohol interlocks to be installed in every car, not just in the cars of former DUI offenders.
But taking the aforementioned issues to mind, that plan may be nearly impossible. Drivers who have never been accused of DUI would protest the interlocks being installed in their cars.
But with new technology at hand, NHTSA’s plans may be possible. According to Consumers Union testimony before the United States Senate, February 28, 2007, several automobile manufacturers are working on this Interlock accident prevention idea. For example, as early as August of 2007, Nissan tested a prototype system in Japan in which sensors in the headrest test the driver’s breath for alcohol.
Toyota in Japan is working on a steering wheel that uses skin-sensing technology to check for alcohol content. A Toyota spokesman in the US also claimed that the company was working on a non-invasive alcohol-testing idea, one that involves a hidden breathalyzer.
An executive director for vehicle safety at General Motors said that skin-sensing technology seems the most realistic for widespread use. Skin-sensing works based on the principles that human skin is transparent to light and that alcohol is a complex molecule that could easily be detected. But the director also believes that even with skin-sensing technology, some drivers would oppose because of intrusiveness into their lives.
General Motors experimented in the 1970s and 1980s with interlocks that asked drivers to perform simple tasks before allowing the car to start. These tasks, however, were not very accurate. They required drivers to keep a pointer centered on a moving target, or to repeat a set of displayed numbers. The problem with these tests is that about 20% of sober drivers failed these tests, and some drunk/DUI drivers were able to pass the tests.
Due to the failure to produce an alcohol-interlock realistic for widespread use, an NHTSA administrator said that the agency was financing research on interlock systems, but even she acknowledges the fact that a widespread interlock system acceptable to drivers may be years in the making. As car accident lawyers, we have handled cases where the damage caused by drunk driving was beyond repair. And that is why our law firm strongly supports the research involving the development of a widespread interlock system.
Getting into a car after a night of drinking is never a good idea — unless you happen to be the designated driver or the one not driving. Drinking and driving causes thousands of car accidents every year, and you need to prevent that at all costs. Our car accident attorneys have a DUI prevention resource page that is designed to give you tips on preventing car accidents caused by drunk driving or helping you or someone you know if they may be dealing with an alcohol problem.
Please contact us for a free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney — we speak both English and Spanish — at (800) 655-6585. Click here and you may also submit your case for a Free Review. No fee if no recovery.
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines