Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (1)

Too Drunk to Drive? Your Car Will Tell You If So

Drunk driving continues to be a serious problem. In 2009 for example, alcohol was a factor in more than 10,000 highway deaths. The same year, a stunning 10 percent of respondents to a survey of U.S. adults said they had operated an automobile while drunk during the previous year. Nearly 6 percent said they had done it more than once.

So how would you feel about a car that can instantly detect whether a driver is drunk and prevent that person from starting the car? You better make up your mind quickly, because scientists are close to perfecting this technology.

“We’re five to seven years away from being able to integrate this into cars,” Robert Strassburger, the VP for safety at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) told the Washington Post. The AAM, an automotive trade group, is on the development team for the new technology which is being spearheaded by the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The anticipated sensing device will look nothing like the breathalyzer machines currently used by police in the field. Instead it will be comprised of tiny, passive, touch-sensitive sensors that are permanently affixed to a key fob or a starter button. The sensors can determine blood alcohol levels in seconds.

From a technical standpoint, the biggest challenge is to craft a sensor that analyses and responds to tactile information within about a third of a second. Current versions of the sensor take 20 to 30 seconds to do this. Team members are confident, however, that advancements in solid-state electronics and infrared technology will help them achieve their goal.

After that lies the most nettlesome problem of all: Will car buyers purchase vehicles with these devices? Obviously cost will be a concern, but more important will be the fears people have that the newly empowered vehicles will prevent them from driving home after enjoying a drink or two.

The device “establishes a situation where you are guilty until proven innocent every time you get into your car,” Sarah Longwell, who represents the American Beverage Institute told the Post. “Most Americans would say: ‘Absolutely not. I don’t drive drunk, and you’re not going to put that in my car.’”

Longwell added that her organization would support universal use of the devices if they were calibrated at 0.08 — the legal drunk driving limit. She fears, however, that the devices might be set lower than that. “Americans are 100 percent behind the fact that you shouldn’t drive drunk,” she stated. “But they’re not ready to give up the glass of wine with dinner, the beer at a ballgame, or a champagne toast at a wedding.”

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

You may also like these posts

Read comments »

One Response to “Too Drunk to Drive? Your Car Will Tell You If So”

  1. WarmSocks says:

    Are seatbelts optional? This should be standard equipment, although I have questions about how the technology will function if the driver is wearing gloves.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »