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MADD Canada predicts new technology will virtually end drunk driving

Last Updated Dec 4, 2015 at 7:52 am PDT

(Photo courtesy RCMP)

New technology designed to measure blood alcohol level using infrared-light

Experts are not convinced this will work and think the technology and legislation are two key factors for that

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We are heading into the first weekend of December, which means you will be heading through the first police road blocks of the holiday season tonight.

But the annual CounterAttack blitz could soon be a thing of the past according to the head of MADD Canada, who recently tested new technology meant to be installed in every vehicle that rolls off the production line.

“The car of the future will have DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) built right into it,” says Andrew Murie, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada.

DADSS is a passive breath and touched-based bio-sensor system designed to measure blood alcohol levels under the skin’s surface by shining an infrared-light through the fingertip or measuring the alcohol level in a driver’s naturally exhaled breath.

“When you are above a preset level — it might be zero for teen drivers, it might be 0.5 for adult drivers — the car goes into what’s called ‘limp’ mode. It can’t drive very fast, the lights are flashing and the horn is going as a signal to law enforcement and other drivers that the car shouldn’t be on the road. It’s going so slow it really can’t cause death or significant injury,” adds Murie.

The DADSS research program is a partnership between the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), which represents the world’s leading automakers and Murie has high hopes for it.

“I recently had a chance to sit and test the technology, and within a second it had determined blood alcohol levels. You don’t have to give a sample, as soon as you sit in that driver’s seat, the vehicle has already assessed what your BAC is. It’s quite amazing technology and will really make a difference down the road with impaired driving.”

While Murie predicts field testing to begin within 12 to 24 months and widespread adoption by automakers within three to five years, not everyone is convinced the technology will be available that soon, if at all.

“I can tell you, straight up, no — it won’t happen,” says NEWS 1130 Automotive Specialist Tim Dimopolous.

“There are a number of reasons why. I think the technology still needs development but, more importantly, the legislation part of it hasn’t been addressed. This is technology that will likely need to be legislated into vehicles rather than introduced voluntarily by manufacturers.”

Dimopolous says there was the same issue with back-up cameras in vehicles.

“The technology has been around for ages and ages and manufacturers are only just now starting to implement cameras across their entire line up. They do save lives, but it’s a question of cost to the manufacturer,” he says.

He envisions drawn out court proceedings if the DADSS system is legislated into new vehicles. “I see this as a long term technology, not a short term technology.”