drunken driving program started by the government and the auto
industry is in the midst of receiving extra funding which could lead
to the development
of an "anti-drunk driving" device. The device "sniff's"
the driver's breath, uses light beams to detect alcohol content in
human tissue, and will stop the vehicle from starting if any alcohol
Alcohol Detection System for Safety program started in 2008
as a five-year program that began with $10 million in total funding.
Currently, it operates on $2 million a year and is a cooperative
effort by the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which gives $1
million, while 13 automakers, 11 of which are Alliance
of Automobile Manufacturers members, split the other $1
$2 million a year could increase to $12 million if the Senate decides
to add the program to the new Motor
Vehicle Safety Act of 2010. The idea to provide extra funding to
the program was presented in an amendment by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM),
who also proposed a similar standalone bill back in February.
amendment proposes five years of $12 million annual funding, which
will amount to $60 million total. The money will go directly to the
program in order to support its goal of creating an in-car device
that would stop those over the legal blood-alcohol limit from driving
a car in an
impaired state. Currently, the NHTSA and the automakers do not
plan on making these devices mandatory, they're hoping that consumers
will jump onboard with the idea of an alcohol interlock system in
order to avoid any potential safety risks.
to Susan Ferguson, the program director for Driver Alcohol Detection
System for Safety, the annual $2 million has been adequate up until
this point, but due to the rising costs of technology, the additional
money is becoming more and more vital to make these devices a
want a device that has to be invisible to the sober driver, the
person under the legal limit," said Ferguson. "It has to be
very fast, very accurate, highly reliable and precise. All those
things will take a significant amount of money."
problem this program could face is if consumers decide not to use the
device, since it isn't mandatory. Despite the safety
advantages and the importance of sober operation of a
vehicle, many users may find the device inconvenient when the car
doesn't start in certain situations.
purpose of the NHTSA is not to manufacture and develop air bags or
seat belts or drunk-driving devices," said Joan Claybrook, a
member of the board of directors at Public
Citizen and former head of the safety agency. "NHTSA's
role is of a regulator."
consumers and many different groups, such as Insurance
Institute for Highway Safety and the National
Safety Council, are supportive of the idea. According to a survey
that the Insurance Institute conducted last year, which consisted of
1,004 people (two-thirds of which consume alcohol), 64 percent
indicated it would be "good" or "very good" to
have alcohol detection devices in all vehicles.
think it is equivalent to the next seat belt," said Ferguson,
who used to be a top researcher at the Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety. "It could make a huge difference in highway
problem that is worrying safety advocates is that the $60 million
could cut the amount of money set aside to make the NHTSA "more
effective." Approximately $140 million a year is given to
the federal safety agency for vehicle safety, and the plan – before
the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety was added to the bill
-- was to increase this amount to $200 million in fiscal year 2011,
$240 million in 2012, and $280 million in 2013.
decision is to be made by the Senate's appropriations committee, but
Amber McDowell, a spokeswoman for Udall, said that Udall wanted this
program to be funded separately, hence, it would not affect the money
planned for the safety agency.
far as rights of the device goes, the NHTSA and the automakers both
have rights to the technology under the current five-year, $10
million program. The figures show that devices, such as the one this
program could develop, could save approximately 8,000-9,000 lives a
year. According to federal records, 12,000 people died
in alcohol-related accidents in 2008, so these devices could
prevent over 60 percent of these fatalities.