.…An end, not because we’re abstaining but because technology in our smarter and smarter cars is going to one day take away the option of putting our foot on the gas pedal when intoxicated. Personal responsibility assumed by a machine…
The research represents a partnership between the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), and the National Highway Safety Administration. Since 2008, it’s been going strong, taking two different approaches to the problem of drunk drivers:
1. Breath: Sensors mounted in front of the driver will “measure the concentration of carbon dioxide and ethanol molecules being exhaled.” Hit a certain ratio between the two, and the car won’t start.
2. Touch: When a driver hits the start button or some other specially designed surface, the touch pad will identify chemical properties in the skin, including ethanol levels. If they measure 0.08% or more, the car won’t start.
Wow, right? But all this science fiction tech will be offered only as an optional safety feature, instead of being installed on all cars as required by law. Know, too, that it won’t be ready for prime time until 2020 at the earliest. None too soon, however, given that every day, almost 30 people die in this country because of an alcohol-impaired driver. In other words, one such death occurs every 51 minutes. And drunk driving is costly, too, amounting to more than $59 billion that tax payers have to shell out every year.
Then there are these grim statistics:
• In 2013, 10,076 people died in alcohol-related car crashes, representing 31% of all traffic deaths.
• Of the 1,149 children killed in traffic accidents, 17% involved drunken drivers.
• In 2010 alone, more than 1.4 million drivers were arrested for being alcohol-impaired.
The picture is no brighter in Pennsylvania. For starters, drunk driving has recently resulted in the deaths of 368 people. That translates to 30.5% of all the traffic deaths that have occurred here this year. Then there are these state-wide facts:
• There were 7,900 alcohol-related crash injuries involving drivers with a 0.1 BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) or higher.
• There were 11,041 alcohol-related crashes involving drivers with a 0.1 BAC or higher.
• 64,024 Pennsylvanians were recently arrested for DUI (Driving Under the Influence).
• The cost to us tax payers who must subsidize drunk driving fatalities in the commonwealth: $1.9 billion.
And that’s not an end to the bad news in Pennsylvania. That’s because our kids are following in our footsteps. In fact, it’s been determined that in just one recent month, 28.30% of our 12- to 20-year-olds drank alcohol; in other words, 445,000 of them.
As for the binge drinking that makes headlines from time-to-time? Those numbers are unsettling, too, with 18.70% of that same age group recently engaging in such behavior, adding up to 294,000 of them.
Now imagine what the roads will look like if recreational marijuana is legalized here as is hoped by many, including some of our legislators. As it is—and unlike a number of states–Pennsylvania already has eight alcohol-related laws on the books to help, and here they all are:
1. Vehicular homicide laws establish penalties for drunk drivers who cause a fatality.
2. Social host laws hold adults accountable for supplying alcohol to the under-21 set.
3. Sobriety checkpoints allow police to stop folks along their routes if suspected of being intoxicated—or not.
4. Mandatory Alcohol Assessment/Treatment laws are in place so that those convicted of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated (DWI) can be assessed for alcohol abuse issues and receive treatment.
5. Ignition interlock statutes allow judges or administrative agencies to install an interlock ignition device on the cars of those convicted of drunk driving for a certain period of time.
6. DUI child endangerment statutes allow additional penalties to be placed on those convicted of drunk driving with a child on board.
7. Dram shop laws can hold establishments liable for selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated adults or minors who cause either death or injury to others in alcohol-related crashes.
8. The .08 per se law makes it illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher.
And so it goes. We’ll just have to wait for the technology to catch up with our drinking habits, and, in the meantime, hope that most folks will, if not abstain, know when to stop or, at the very least, hand their keys to a sober friend or call a cab…