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Can alcohol detection systems prevent fatal crashes?

Vancouver car accident attorney

Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of catastrophic and deadly collisions in the United States. In fact, 10,511 people were killed in drunk driving crashes nationwide throughout 2018 — 166 of those deaths were in Washington State. On a national scale, drunk driving is the cause of about 30 percent of all road deaths.

In addition, about one million drivers are arrested and charged with DUI each year across the nation. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), about a quarter of traffic fatalities in the U.S. can be prevented by alcohol detection systems. These systems are designed to detect when someone has consumed alcohol and stop them from driving. This can be especially effective at stopping repeat DUI offenders from getting behind the wheel.

“We haven’t made much progress in the fight against drunk driving since the mid-1990s,” said Charles Farmer, IIHS vice president of research and statistical services. “This is something that could put a real dent in the alcohol-impaired driving problem.”

How many deaths can be prevented by alcohol detection systems?

Farmer calculated the likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash due to alcohol impairment with certain driver age groups. For example:

  • Drivers aged 16-21 with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.09 are 60 times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes. That is compared to sober drivers from the same age group.
  • For drivers aged 22-34, the likelihood is 21 times in comparison to sober drivers.
  • For drivers aged 35 and older, the likelihood is 16 times in comparison to sober drivers.

Farmer also calculated that roughly 37,636 traffic fatalities from 2015-2018 could have been prevented if drivers with a BAC of 0.08 percent were blocked from driving. That averages about 9,409 deaths prevented each year.

In addition, if alcohol detection systems were required for commercial truck drivers, about 465 traffic fatalities can be prevented each year.

Is it possible to have alcohol detection technology in new cars?

Currently, the only systems available for preventing drunk driving are ignition interlock devices. Drivers who are convicted of DUI must blow into the device in order to start their cars. Any cars equipped with ignition interlock devices will not start if alcohol is detected on someone's breath.

A survey was conducted in 2009. Nearly two-thirds of participants said they supported installing ignition interlock devices into all cars. That's as long as they are quick, accurate and unobtrusive.

Some technology is being explored by Volvo. They're working on a public-private partnership called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) project. There is the possibility that advanced alcohol detection systems can detect alcohol by measuring the ambient air in a car.

What should I do if I was injured in a drunk driving crash?

If you or a loved one was injured in a drunk driving crash, don't hesitate to speak to an experienced Vancouver car accident attorney. The Scott Law Firm, PLLC is dedicated to helping crash victims and their families get the justice and compensation they deserve.

If you were injured in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver, hiring an attorney can help maximize your compensation. To learn more about the legal options available to you, contact us online and schedule your free consultation.

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