DOT & Auto Industry Seek To Reduce Alcohol Impaired Driving


AAA survey finds 1/5th of licensed drivers who drink at least occasionally say they have driven when they thought their alcohol level may have been close to, or over, the legal limit.

A survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, finds one-fifth of licensed drivers who drink at least occasionally say that they have driven when they thought their alcohol level may have been close to, or even over, the legal limit in the past year. And 15% of those respondents said they did this more than once in the past year. Although the complete 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index won’t be officially released until later this month, the Foundation published some of the results early in an effort to mitigate dangerous driving behaviors during the holiday season – especially since the results show virtually no improvement in this type of impaired driving over the last two years.

Of the 3,103 licensed drivers who took part in the survey, 96% consider impaired driving to be somewhat or completely unacceptable, and 52% were of the opinion that drunk drivers are a bigger problem today compared with three years ago. The survey found 68% favored new cars having built-in interlock devices to test drivers’ sobriety before they start the car, and 63% approve of lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit to 0.05%, from the current 0.08%.

Just one week after the AAA survey release, the Department of Transportation (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) granted a five-year extension of its cooperative agreement with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), a research group comprised of 15 automakers, to continue studying and developing advanced alcohol detection technology that could prevent vehicles from being driven by a drunk driver. The study of a Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) has been ongoing since 2008, developing two different technological approaches to measuring driver alcohol levels – a touch-based system and an exhaled breath-based system that would both detect blood-alcohol levels before the vehicle can be started. A functional vehicle with the DADSS installed is expected to be ready for testing in early 2015. During the research extension period, stringent performance requirements for the system will be further refined to ensure high levels of accuracy and precision of operation. Another goal is to make the installed technology as unobtrusive as possible within the vehicle and not pose potential inconvenience to non-intoxicated drivers. 

The death and destruction caused by drinking and driving is a growing problem. According to the latest statistics available, 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2012. That’s a 4.6% jump from the 9,865 fatalities recorded in 2011. As the professional on the road, staying vigilant to the erratic behavior of others, slowing down in heavy traffic and maintaining space around your vehicle as you drive, can help avoid a tragic situation.

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