Technology Takes Aim at Drunk Driving Accidents in Maine, elsewhere

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is optimistic about new technology that officials say has the potential to eliminate the danger of drunk driving accidents in Maine and across the country.

Our Portland personal injury attorneys know that drunk driving can be a habitual problem and this new technology should help reduce the risks associated with chronic offenders getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink.
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The NHTSA is working to develop a new in-vehicle technology that would keep intoxicated drivers from being able to start their engine. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) is currently in the development phases at the QinetiQ lab in Waltham, MA. Once the project is completed, DADSS could be installed by the manufacturer in new model vehicles voluntarily, with the intent of keeping drivers who have tested over the legal limit of .08 from operating their vehicle.

The mechanism is designed to detect alcohol levels either by testing a driver’s breath, or having a touch-based approach to detect a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.

While the government calls installation voluntary, so were seat belts at one time. It could be the first step toward having such equipment as a standard feature in all new automobiles.

“Drunk driving continues to be a national tragedy that needlessly claims the lives of thousands of people on our highways each year,” said U. . Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We need to put an end to it.”

In 2009, the NHTSA reported 10,839 fatalities in crashes with a driver over the legal limit of .08. This accounted for 32% of total traffic fatalities for the year.

Maine reported a total of 159 traffic fatalities in 2009. Over a third of these fatalities occurred in crashes when a BAC of .01 or higher was detected by at least one driver. And there were 47 fatalities in Maine when at least one driver was driving over the legal limit of .08.

Federal data shows that a deadly drunk driving accidents occurs about every 48 minutes in the United States. In addition, drivers in fatal accidents over the legal limit are 8 times more likely to have a previous DUI offense than drivers without any alcohol detected at the time of the crash.

The DADSS technology is expected to consume about $10 million in development costs and take approximately 5 years to fine tune and complete. The next phase will be practical demonstrations of the touch-based and breath-based technologies.

“The technology we are seeing here today could quite simply signal a new frontier in the fight against drunk driving,” said NHTSA Administrator Strickland. “Whatever the future holds for these advanced drunk driving prevention technologies, one thing remains clear; no technology can, or should, ever replace a driver’s personal responsibility not to drive drunk.”

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Maine car accident involving a drunk driver, contact Peter Thompson & Associates for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-804-2004 to reach an attorney in our Portland or Bangor offices today.