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MADD, DOT push alcohol-detection tech for cars

'If we can't stop drunks from driving, we'll stop vehicles from driving drunks.' Federal government and insurers sign onto tech focus.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Department of Transportation are pushing for alcohol-detecting devices and other technology as the ultimate weapon against drunk driving, The Washington Post reports.

"If we can't stop drunks from driving, we'll stop vehicles from driving drunks," said Glynn Birch, president of MADD, at a news conference. Birch said technology, along with tougher laws and enforcement, has put eliminating drunken driving "at our fingertips."
MADD wants the states to follow New Mexico's lead and require the devices in cars for all offenders. Only New Mexico requires detection devices for first offenders. Most states and DC allow them in some cases.
Interlock devices require drivers to blow into an instrument that measures alcohol. The vehicle won't start unless the driver's blood alcohol concentration is below a preset level. Other interlocks may require drivers to breathe into the devices periodically.

MADD estimates that 1,900 lives could be saved each year if interlocks were installed in the vehicles of all convicted drunken drivers.

There are other technology options, such as devices that measure blood alcohol concentration by sampling air in the vehicle or tracking hand or eye movements that might indicate drowsiness or drunken behavior.

"Advanced technology is being developed that in the future may allow quick, accurate and reliable detection of drinking drivers in the time it takes to start a vehicle," said Susan Ferguson, senior vice president of research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who will chair the panel.