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Will Alcohol Detection Devices Decrease Drunk Driving Accidents?

Critics on Both Sides Gear Up for a Long Fight

If legislation proposed by New York State Senator Charles Schumer proves successful, every car in America could one day be subject to an installed passive alcohol-detecting device to prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver's blood alcohol concentration is above a pre-determined level.

To some, this still imaginary technology is a solution that would immediately stop drunk driving and put an end to the countless alcohol-related crashes that occur each year. To others, however, such a device comes with obvious Orwellian consequences, and is seen as another example of a government trying to heavy-handedly control the details of the lives of Americans. 

ROADSSAFE Legislation

Senator Schumer's proposal is an unconventional step in the fight against drunk drivers: the legislation does not actually do anything at this point. The bill, part of the Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-Related Fatalities Everywhere (ROADSSAFE) Act, would provide funding for research into determining if such a device would be possible in the future -- no such non-intrusive alcohol-detection system exists now.

Schumer passionately argues in favor of this legislation alongside families who have lost loved ones in drunk driving accidents, stressing that deaths could have been prevented with widespread use of tools like this one.

He also advocates another use for this type of device - as a way to curb underage drinking and driving, a growing trend that is causing more and more deaths each year. Since teens' bodies are not as efficient at filtering and processing alcohol, even a small amount of alcohol could be disastrous. Parental controls could allow the device to be set in such a way that it prevents the engine from starting if any amount of alcohol is detected.

The seemingly public face of this project is the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, whose data suggests that the devices, even if not mandated for all vehicles, could save nearly 10,000 lives a year. That same group has been the target of many critics' ire. In the past, the organization has been seen as having an anti-alcohol agenda, freely admitting that they would prefer to err on the side of caution when developing the technology, wanting to set the permissible blood alcohol levels stringently, preferring to "catch" many people who are not actually intoxicated than miss one who is.

No matter what side of the debate you are on, do not expect it to end any time soon. In fact, it will likely get more heated in the future. As technology progresses, opponents and proponents alike will find themselves with more ammunition, not less.

Regardless of whether this device is eventually created, implemented and found to be effective (or not), there will likely still be alcohol-related accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in one, you need to consult an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to find out more about your rights and legal options.

Source: ABC News "Should Your Car Test if You've Been Drinking" 7/8/2010

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