Do you think the dashboard in your new car is already filled with electronic gizmos? You open the door, sit down and in front of you are a dazzling array of dials, buttons, analog and digital displays, screens, backup camera, audio options, ignition, Bluetooth, climate controls, ad nauseum.
How about adding a breathalyzer to that dashboard?
Sen. Chuck Schumer Pushes High-Tech Solution to Drunk Driving
Wash, D.C. Aug. 7 – Sen. Chuck Schumer is racing to install new technology in cars that could put a stop to drunk driving, saving up to 7,000 lives per year.
The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety — revealed last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — uses touch- and breath-based systems to detect if a driver has had too many drinks. If the systems detect that the driver’s blood alcohol level is above the legal limit, the car shuts down.
The high-tech solution has been in the works since 2008 through a partnership between the NHTSA and Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, but it won’t hit production for several years, researchers say. To speed up the process, Schumer is co-sponsoring a bill that would funnel $48 million in federal funding to the project over six years…
Presumably, these dashboard breathalyzers will not be options, but will be required by federal or state law — either as mandatory equipment on new cars, or as required additions to used cars. This would probably be required by federal law or, as with the .08% blood-alcohol laws, by state laws passed under threat of withholding federal highway funds.
Sounds like a great idea, right? But what is never mentioned about these devices are the drawbacks:
* Accuracy. As with breathalyzers used in police stations, these machines have to be constantly calibrated
* Reliability. Police breathalyzers are in police stations; how reliable and accurate will one be subjected to bumpy roads and high-speed driving?
* Fraud. What’s to stop a driver from having his passenger or anyone else breath into the device?
* Emergency situations. What if there is a sudden emergency requiring immediate driving?
* Maintenance. How often, where and at what cost must the machines be maintained or repaired?
* Safety. What happens if the breathalyzer malfunctions and shuts down the vehicle — on a freeway at 65 mph?
As I’ve mentioned repeatedly in the past, law enforcement breath-testing machines — even when maintained, calibrated and operated correctly — are inaccurate and unreliable. See, for example, Breathalyzer Accuracy. How accurate and reliable will a much smaller and cheaper version be that is mounted in a car driven for hours at varying speeds and road conditions?