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Will Alcohol Detection Technology be Standard in New Cars?

Congress just approved a new long-term funding bill for transportation. The bill includes $5 million that will be used over a two-year time period for research regarding alcohol-detection technology. The research will assess whether such technology should be standard equipment in all new cars.

The bill is controversial - some feel that it infringes on their rights. However, for those who have been a victim of a drunk driving accident or have lost a loved one because of a drunk driver, the bill may be what they are looking for, as it could stop drunk drivers.

The research authorized by the bill will determine whether auto manufacturers should add an alcohol-detection system to each automobile, keeping the vehicle from starting if the technology senses that the driver has had too much to drink.

One method could employ sensors in the steering wheel, ignition or the gear shift. The sensors would determine, via excretions from the fingers, whether a person has a blood alcohol level above 0.08, the legal limit in New Jersey. Other methods could include equipment that measures the alcohol in the driver's breath.

The managing director of the American Beverage Institute said that using taxpayer money to develop technology to sense the blood alcohol level of a driver is misusing funds, but Mothers Against Drunk Driving said that those funds are well-spent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been working with automakers since 2008 to research technology with the ability to non-invasively test a driver's blood alcohol content and to keep the vehicle from starting if the a driver's BAC is higher than 0.08.

Source: USA Today, "Alcohol-sensing technology could become standard in all cars," Larry Copeland, June 29, 2012.

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