What if Your Car Could Tell When You’ve Had Too Much to Drink?

Motorists convicted of multiple DWIs or extreme intoxication behind the wheel are typically the only drivers required to have an ignition interlock alcohol breath tester installed on their vehicles in North Carolina.

On a second offense of driving while intoxicated in which the driver’s blood-alcohol content is .15 percent or higher, the courts can require the offender to breathe into an alcohol breath tester hooked to the car’s ignition before starting the vehicle.

What if every new vehicle in the country came equipped with an alcohol breath tester designed to prevent impaired driving crashes? What if ignition interlock devices were standard safety equipment on vehicles just as seat belts and airbags are?

Researchers at the University of Michigan Injury Center and the Transportation Research Institute found that the injury prevention and financial impact would be significant over a 15-year period, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health:

  • 85 percent of fatalities attributed to alcohol-related crashes could be avoided, preventing 59,000 deaths

  • 25 million non-fatal injuries would be averted, a reduction of 84-89 percent

  • The nation would save $343 billion, recouping the cost of the devices’ installation in three years.

100 Deadliest Days

In the midst of the nation’s most dangerous driving season, Americans should renew efforts to curb the number of alcohol-related fatalities. Drunk driving can be prevented through the use of technology, and the summer months prove the nation needs to take new steps to reduce the number of people killed needlessly on the nation’s roadways.

During the period from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the number of inexperienced young drivers increases, making it a dangerous time for all motorists.

An analysis of federal figures by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found an average of 220 teen drivers and passengers were killed in each of the summer months in 2013, 43 percent more than the rest of the year.

Even with the number of deaths and injuries from teen crashes plummeting more than 50 percent over the last 20 years, young motorists remain a threat to those around them, the study determined.

The AAA Foundation report complements estimates made by the University of Michigan researchers. Those closest to the legal drinking age would benefit the most from alcohol ignition interlocks, the U of M study found:

  • 481,000 fatalities and injuries could prevented among motorists 21 to 29 years old, which is almost 35 percent of the deaths and injuries for all age groups
  • For drivers under 21, 195,000 deaths and injuries could be averted.

North Carolina Impact

The number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities has declined by 12 percent over the last decade in the Tar Heel State, dipping to 371 in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Consider how many of those 371 alcohol-related fatalities could have been prevented by the use of alcohol-ignition locks on all vehicles.

Lifesafer, which produces alcohol interlock devices, reports this technology can reduce repeat drunk driving from 50 to 90 percent when used in a DWI offender’s vehicle.

When the interlocks are removed, however, habitual drunk drivers resume their dangerous driving behavior at rates comparable to rates for those who never used the ignition interlocks, showing the need for the devices to be required permanently for people convicted of multiple DWI offenses, according to the company website.

The federal government began working with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety in 2008 to come up with a method to prevent drunk driving, according to a claimsjournal.com report.

One proposed technology would use biometric readings of fingerprints or an infrared breath analysis to prevent people who’d been drinking from being able to start a vehicle. The research is ongoing, according to the article.

Part of the problem is automakers have to determine whether consumers want to pay for this type of new technology, the article notes.

Until ignition interlock devices or other technology to prevent drunk drivers from operating a vehicle are standard on cars, motorists will have to depend on their own judgment to avoid accidents.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash involving a drunk driver in North Carolina, contact a North Carolina car accident attorney experienced in handling personal injury claims. At this difficult time in your life, you need someone who can guide you through the process to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for injuries, lost work time and other losses.

About the Author

Hardison & Cochran was established based on the conviction that a modern approach was essential in today’s legal landscape. Focused on delivering exceptional results through a skilled team, the firm prioritizes personal attention, integrity, and client needs. Each attorney, paralegal, and staff member is dedicated to this vision. Over three decades, with Ben Cochran overseeing daily operations, the firm has evolved into a highly respected practice.

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