New Breath Test Devices Could Reduce Texas DUI Car Crash Fatalities
The United States Senate has built into its version of the federal transportation bill $24 million in extra funding for research on alcohol-sensing technology that could be installed in vehicles. Along with seat belt alarms, perpetual running lights on the floors and the serene guidance of GPS units, this new concept would detect boozy breath in drivers and prevent them from being able to start the car.
As opposed to the interlock device, which functions much like a breathalyzer test and is installed in the cars of some drivers with DUI convictions, these new technologies would be far less intrusive, if not subliminal, and could eventually end up in every car. Not surprisingly, there are many conflicting opinions on the topic, from car manufacturers to restaurant owners to those who have suffered traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and broken bones in drunk driver car accidents.
Texas personal injury lawyer David Glenn, of Glenn Law Firm, sees the anguish drunk driving accidents in Texas cause and applauds any technology that can help save lives, while still appreciating the complexity of the issue. “Of all the types of accidents that cause catastrophic injury,” he attests, “drunk driving accidents may be the most devastating and disturbing for families. There’s no excuse for a drunk driver whose negligent actions cause serious injuries or lead to the loss of life.”
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2009, there were 956 Texas car accident fatalities involving a drunk driver, which represents approximately 31% of all car crash deaths that year. This new technology could improve those rates, but making them required equipment in all new vehicles would be a slow process. The Senate’s initial goal is to establish whether the government can require automakers to include this technology as standard devices in the cars they make.
A key factor will be developing an instrument that is not distracting or time-consuming for drivers. One such possibility is called tissue spectrometry, which uses a touchpad and lasers to detect alcohol in human tissue. Another is distant spectrometry, in which sensors installed strategically within the car interior in order to only test a driver’s breath could sniff it automatically and show an alcohol level reading.
The restaurant and bar industry is not reacting positively to this possibility, as it would likely dissuade people from spending money in their establishments on the most profitable product they offer: alcohol. They argue that the device could be set to detect levels below the legal limit and could also malfunction, keeping perfectly sober drivers from being able to start their car.
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times points out that the device is somewhat limited because it only detects the presence of alcohol and no other mind-altering substances, such as marijuana or cocaine. It also says the restaurant industry hopes to put a stop to the entire program before it gains much publicity or support. It remains to be seen if the issue gains any momentum in the legislative process or the public sector, but considering that DUIs cause nearly a third of all the drunk driving deaths in Texas, it sounds like an idea worth exploring.
At Glenn Law Firm, we offer aggressive legal advocacy to anyone who has been affected by a DUI car accident injury or wrongful death. If you or someone you love has been injured by a drunk driver in Texas, call for a free consultation with a tough personal injury lawyer in Texas 1-817-424-5999. You can also reach us by completing our online contact form.