Although drunk driving fatalities have fallen by 23 percent in the last 10 years, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Udall (D-NM) believe that our country can do a lot better.

That’s why the two are co-sponsoring a bill to fund the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), which can pinpoint whether drivers are drunk without any need for a breathalyzer. If you’re past the legal limit, the technology disables your car so you can’t drive it.


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The bill is called “The Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-Related Fatalities Everywhere Act.” If passed, it would provide DADSS researchers with a combined $48 million in funding over the course of six years. Senator Schumer says that he ultimately wants to see this system as an available safety option in new cars, and as mandatory for those with DUI convictions.


Let’s take a look at how DADSS works.

THE BASICS

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Cars outfitted with DADSS would use either breath or touch detectors to sense your BAC in under a second. If you’re an adult, the car wouldn’t move if your BAC is over .08, which is the legal limit in all 50 states. If you’re under 21, DADSS could be set to allow zero tolerance for alcohol.

With modern car technologies such as personalized keys for individual drivers, a small detail like driver age may be something your newer car already knows about you.

HOW THE BREATH SENSOR WORKS

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A small sensor located either on the steering column or in the driver’s side door would pull in the driver’s exhaled breath. A beam of infrared light would cross the breath molecules. Since different amounts of light are absorbed by carbon dioxide and ethanol molecules, the sensor could accurately determine if a driver is drunk based on a small breath sample.

This system would also rely on auto manufacturers engineering cabin airflow to direct the driver’s breath into the sensors.

HOW THE TOUCH SENSOR WORKS

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The touch sensor would be located either in the engine start button or on the gear shift. In either case, it would shine a beam of light onto a finger and use near-infrared spectroscopy to determine your BAC. Since we know that alcohol absorbs very specific wavelengths of light, the system would measure the light’s intensity to determine if a driver is legally over the limit, and it would disable the car if that’s the case.

ONE SMALL PROBLEM

As Mashable points out, this system will prove difficult to implement because in current development, DADSS can’t be retrofitted into older cars. Instead, it will only be available as an option for newer cars.


In any case, it’s interesting and potentially game-changing tech that could one day make us all a little safer on the road. Better make sure you always have room on the couch for that one friend of yours (you know the one).

[via Mashable]