A bill is making its way through Congress that would make alcohol-detection equipment mandatory in new vehicles by 2024.
The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act of 2019, called the RIDE Act, would also earmark $10 million to continue government backed research on advanced alcohol detection systems including touch sensors.
The bipartisan bill was introduced in October by Senators Tom Udall (Democrat) of NM and Rick Scott (Republican) of FL. A similar bill in the House was proposed by Representative Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan.
The next step for the bill would be for it to be considered by committee before it was possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.
The research funding proposed in the bill may be of interest to 12 volters. It’s being conducted under a government program in partnership with car companies and technology companies. It is developing two types of tests.
One test measures alcohol as the driver enters the car through his normal breathing. “It would be designed to take instantaneous readings as the driver breathes normally and…accurately and reliably distinguish between the driver’s breath and that of any passengers,” said the government research program called DADSS.
Unlike current ignition interlock devices, this system does not require a deep lung sample of air blown into a tube. Companies SenseAir and Autoliv are developing this system.
The second system is touch-based. It measures alcohol levels under the skin’s surface by shining an infrared light through the fingertip of the driver. This would be integrated into current vehicle controls such as the start button or steering wheel controls and would take multiple accurate readings said the DADSS.
This system detects alcohol in the capillaries. A portion of the light shone on the skin is reflected back to the skin’s surface where it is collected by the touchpad. It measures wavelengths at which alcohol can be found. The system will be able to take multiple readings in less than a second.
Robert Strassburger, President & CEO of the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) which is working with NHTSA on DADSS told CEoutlook that the system will be offered as a safety option “for automakers to integrate and consumers to purchase. To achieve the performance specifications that will encourage its widespread adoption, we estimate the program will need an additional 4-5 years of research before either the breath-based or touch-based technology is ready for commercialization. In the meantime, we are working on a separate sensor – that would be set at a BAC of 0.02 or less and requiring a directed breath (like blowing out a candle) – that would be suitable for use by fleets interested in limiting the BACs of its employees. This is currently being road tested [pictured above] and, if the research stays on track, it should be available for use in 2021.”
The bill submitted to Congress in October says the Federal Government has already invested nearly $50 million in this research.
The bill notes that a third of highway fatalities in the US are due to alcohol-impaired driving, amounting to over 10,800 deaths per year.