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Can Technology Decrease Drunk Driving Deaths?

Every day in the United States, an average of thirty seven people lose their life in drunk driving crashes—or one person every forty minutes. In 2021, more than thirteen thousand lives were lost in DUI crashes related to alcohol, which was almost a fifteen percent increase from the prior year [1]

As a result of these concerning statistics, in 2021 Congress directed the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) to put into place a mandate for carmakers to install DUI-averting technologies in their vehicles. And in December of 2023, the NHTSA issued an advance notice to carmakers that they will eventually be required to adopt technologies within the vehicle to prevent intoxicated drivers from starting their vehicle, possibly even as early as November 2024 (though it will probably take three or more years to completely implement). In addition, the NHTSA is asking the public as well as related organizations to voice their opinions and research on impaired driving protection.

What are the DUI Prevention Technologies?

So what can be expected of DUI prevention technologies? The NHTSA’s regulatory notice sites that potential requirements could include blood alcohol content detection, impairment detection through driver monitoring, or some combination. Currently, there are numerous technologies under development that could fit this function, including the following:

  • Breath or touch based sensors detecting alcohol—this technology can use sensors to can the skin’s surface to measure the driver’s blood alcohol level using an infrared light.
  • Cameras monitoring eye movement—Eye movement is useful in detecting impairment, and unlike other technologies, does not solely rely on BAC—which is not as useful when trying to detect drug impairment.
  • Less Intrusive Interlock devices—rather than requiring a puff any time before driving, these would likely be sensor based. Interlock devices themselves are very effective and a report from Mothers against Drunk Drivers states that it has stopped more than two million people from driving drunk between 2006 and 2017. [2]
  • Driving assistance systems to indicate lane departure and collision assist— these exist in many newer cars, and can be somewhat helpful in the prevention of car accidents of any kind.

However, before these technologies become mandated, the NHTSA administrator Ann Carlson states that it is important to ensure the accuracy of the technology in place. Even if it is 99.9% correct, the 0.1% chance of a false positive can impact many—possibly even during an emergency, like when rushing to a hospital. [3] Thus, even if these technologies became widely available in late 2024, they would likely not be mandated until their reliability can be ensured.

2023 DUI Statistics in Nevada

In 2023, the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety reported that thankfully DUI crashes decreased from 2022. The data released by the office in early December compared the number of crashes between January and August of last year.

However, drivers should remain cautious during the holidays as they remain one of the most at-risks time of the year. This time of year is usually associated with Holiday Parties, as well as other festivities which involve drinking. Additionally, New Year’s Eve and Superbowl weekend often involve a lot of drinking, and as a result, DUIs. Data also revealed that most DUIs occur on the weekends between 9 PM and 11:59 AM, and the second highest time frame being 12 AM to 3 AM.

Despite this downward trend in traffic deaths, DUI accidents are not non-existent in the state. In late November, Nevada Highway Patrol announced that two troopers were killed on I-15 in Southern Nevada after being struck by a drunk driver. Sergeant Michael Abbate and Trooper Alberto Felix were conducting a motorist assist after coming across a vehicle where the driver appeared to have fell asleep behind the wheel. While they were stopped to conduct the assist, a Chevy HHR struck the officers, and fled the scene. Las Vegas Metro Police Department later located the driver [4]. This tragedy once again highlights the devastation caused by DUIs, as well as the importance of curbing these incidents.





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