A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Injury Center and Transportation Research Institute claims that if all cars made in the United States were equipped with technology that prevented drunk drivers from even starting their vehicles, the savings would outweigh the costs within three years.
But what exactly does this mean?
According to Patrick Carter, an assistant professor in emergency medicine at U-M Medical School and the lead author of the study, most drunk drivers make an average of about 80 trips under the influence of alcohol before they are caught by the police.
The study assessed how much it would cost to have every new car equipped with a sobriety-screening system that essentially functioned like a built-in ignition interlock device. It then looked at what the overall savings would be in terms of human lives and money spent dealing with the aftermath of a crash.
According to the American Journal of Public Health, over a fifteen year period (which is how long they expect it would take to get all of the older, unequipped cars off the road) the savings would be staggering. More than 59,000 alcohol related crash fatalities, 1.25 million non-fatal injuries and $340 billion in injury-related costs. And that’s not even including the money spent by the government on prosecuting and convicting drunk drivers.
In a statement provided by Gordon Trowbridge of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: “The goal is to develop a system that can accurately and reliably detect when a driver is above the legal alcohol limit and that could be offered as original equipment in new cars on a voluntary, market-driven basis.”
According to Dr. Bud Zaouk, who is part of the team working to perfect this technology, called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS, the idea is to prevent a driver from starting the vehicle if their blood alcohol content is at or above 0.08, which is the legal limit in most states. However, for drivers who are underage, the limit could be reset to a zero tolerance.
But before you rush out and buy your teenager a car that won’t let them drink and drive, know that the technology is unlikely to be ready for up to eight years.
However, while there are many who believe that safer roads and an end to all drunk driving would be worth almost any price, there are those who feel that this is an infringement on people’s rights. Some have even said that it would be akin to treating everyone like a criminal. What do you think?