Dashboard warning signal in your car might stop you from driving drunk

WASHINGTON – The time spent on research by the government on safety systems that automatically stop drivers from driving their motor vehicles under the influence of an intoxicant or when they are not wearing a seat belt has been increased.

Last Thursday, officials said that they hope to decide by the end of the year how to encourage and support automakers to make some special safety systems already in certain high-end vehicles available in more vehicles. Those systems give warning to motor vehicle drivers prior to an accident that they are about to collide with another vehicle and can brake automatically to avoid an accident or make it less severe with minimum injuries and damage.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that the new and creative systems such as collision avoidance, seat belt interlocks and driver alcohol detection systems can decrease the number of traffic accidents and deaths caused by them.

As they looked forward to creating safety technologies, data showing the increase in highway fatalities since 2005 was released by the officials. In 2012, the number of road accident deaths was 33,561 and this number was 1,082 more than 2011.

David Strickland, the agency’s head told reporters in a conference call that despite the government’s best efforts, some Americans are still driving under the influence of alcohol, driving distracted and not wearing seat belts while operating a motor vehicle. He said, “These technologies are within reach. They address the top three highway safety threats. They have the potential to significantly decrease those deaths. We only need the will to act”.

The 3% rise in highway deaths may be due to last year’s unusually warm winter season that increased the motorcycle riding season. 72% of the rise occurred in the first 3 months of the year. According to the government, most of the individuals who died in the accidents were motorcyclists or pedestrians. Strickland said that the data of this year shows traffic accident fatalities may be decreasing again.

The seat belt interlocks will stop cars and trucks from being driven when the driver or a passenger is not wearing a seat belt or properly buckled in the vehicle. This could save about 3,000 people a year, according to the agency.

Strickland said that automakers prefer to install automatic systems that ensure all the passengers are belted, which is cheaper than spending money on designing the interiors of cars and trucks to ensure unbelted passengers, who get thrown around in accidents, are not injured. The safety administration is attempting to know whether the interlocks can be made tamper-proof and highly trustable.

The “driver alcohol detection system” is different from devices already required by some states for drivers taken into custody or convicted of DUI. To start a motor vehicle, drivers usually have to breathe into a tube to test their BAC level content. Detection systems like those NHTSA is researching with automakers don’t require any action from the driver other than putting his hands on the steering wheel, pressing a start button with a finger or simply breathing. The systems can check with the help of touch or air samples whether the driver’s BAC level content is above the 0.08% which is the legal limit. The idea is to include the systems as standard or optional equipment in new vehicles, even if the driver has a history of DUI or not.

The agency said, “The automatic system would be enabled every time the car is started, but unobtrusive so it would not pose an inconvenience to the non-intoxicated driver”. According to Strickland, the technology is still at least 5 years away.

Last year, 10,322 individuals died in driving under the influence accidents according to the agency. It is a 4.6% rise from 2011. Most of the drivers who died had a Blood Alcohol Content level of 0.15% or higher, almost double the legal limit for driving. The agency said, “Such technology could save thousands of these victims every year”.

Jan Withers, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said that after 6 years of declines, the rise in DUI fatalities is “alarming”. “This news is frustrating because we know what works, and we know how to stop these senseless tragedies,” she said

The collision avoidance systems focus on one of the most common types of motor vehicle accidents. One-third of all police reported last year were the accidents that began with one vehicle striking the rear end of another vehicle, the agency said. Last year motorcycle deaths were increased 7.1%, the third annual increase. Pedestrians also experienced a huge increase in deaths which is 6.4%. Most of the pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas at night time and involve alcohol. Mostly pedestrians die when stepping into the street in the middle of the block rather than at intersections.

Credits: www.DelcoTimes.com