NHTSA Pushes for Technology to Detect Drunk Drivers and Prevent Starting Vehicle

As the holiday season approaches, federal highway safety officials are launching their annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign across the nation to deter drunk driving, and announced funding for the development of new vehicle safety technology that could detect impairment and prevent drivers from ever starting their cars. 

In a press release issued on December 14, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that new technology is being developed that could prevent drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC’s) over the legal limit from operating an automobile

The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) software program is a collaborative research partnership between the NHTSA and Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), which represents 17 of the top automobile manufacturers within the United States, to research and create an alcohol-detection technology that would prevent vehicles from being driven when a driver’s BAC exceeds the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

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“Drunk driving crashes are no accident – they are 100 percent preventable. They all connect back to human choices and errors, but we’re not stopping there,” NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind said in the press release. “With the help of our safety partners we’re looking at a technological path forward to create a world where there is no more drunk driving.”

The program was initiated in 2008, and is being developed in three phases. The first phase involved researching different technologies and software that could counter drunken driving through accurate breath assessment.

The second phase of the DADSS project is currently underway by the NHTSA and its supporting organizations to test touch-based and breath-based sensors to improve performance. Currently the NHTSA is using test vehicles fitted with the software to track consistency and reliability.

The third phase is being conducted parallel to phase two, and seeks to understand how human interaction, both physiologically and ergonomically could affect the software designs. This phase was initiated in 2013.

This year, the NHTSA announced that federal and Virginia state officials have contributed $5.1 million in funding to develop and deploy DADSS technology.

The announcement comes during one of the worst times of the year for drunk driving deaths. The NHTSA reports that during the 2015 Christmas holiday period between December 24 at 6:00 p.m. and December 28 at 5:59 a.m., 34 lives per day were lost due to an impaired or drunk driver, totaling 120 drunk driving fatalities in 3.5 days.

Similar statistics were recorded during the New Year’s period starting between 6:00 p.m. on December 31, 2014 to January 5, 2015 at 5:59 a.m., 31 people were killed by drunk driving crashes, totaling 139 deaths over a 4.5 day period.

More than 10,000 lives are lost annually due to drunk driving accidents.

In addition to the announcement of the new technology, the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign will be run across the nation to advertise sober driving through January 1, 2017.


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