New Technology Measures Sobriety via Wheel, Door Locks

Dennis Faas's picture

A Massachusetts-based research and development facility has created a detection prototype that could determine the driving abilities of someone wishing to operate a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.

While a number of similar systems already exist (such as those requiring an individual to blow into a breath-testing device before the automobile can operate), the new system would use cutting-edge, sensory technology never before added to a motor vehicle.

Wheel, Door Lock Sensors Measure Blood Alcohol Level

The new approach, called "The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety", uses sensors to measure blood alcohol content in one of two ways: either by analyzing a driver's breath or through their skin, using sensitive touch-based sensors positioned on the steering wheel and door locks.

In a recent demonstration, a woman (20 years old, 120 pounds) consumed two, 1.5 ounce glasses of vodka and orange juice about 30 minutes apart. In mirroring an actual social setting, the woman also ate cheese and crackers in between.

After a designated amount of time, the woman attempted to use the touch-based and breath-based prototypes, with both registering her at a .06 blood alcohol content. Since the current limit is set at .08, the woman was still able to start the vehicle without issue. (Source:

Too Many Factors to Consider

While the system has many redeeming qualities, there are some who doubt if the technology could ever be perfected to the point that it would be completely reliable.

Sarah Longwell from the American Beverage Institute is one such critic of the new system. Said Longwell, "Even if the technology is 99.9 percent reliable, that is still tens of thousands of cars that won't start every day."

Longwell also went on to question whether the current .08 limit is high enough to stop all drunk drivers, considering the fact that blood alcohol content can rise and lower depending on the time of consumption, the quantity of alcohol consumed and the amount of food ingested. (Source:

Technology Still Years Away from Mass Production

Still, David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, remains steadfast in his belief that the new technology could save lives. His research averaged 9,000 fatal alcohol-related crashes per year in the United States alone.

Unfortunately for Strickland and his supporters, the technology is by no means ready to go. Experts estimate that the Driver Alcohol Detection System will not be made available to the public for another 8 to 10 years.

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