Officials Employ Emerging Technology In the Fight Against Drunk Driving
By: Gerri Elder
As law enforcement officials work to curb DUI accidents, fatalities and arrests, the technology at their disposal is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Communities use these efforts to reduce the negative effects of both drunk drivers on the roads, and those repeat offenders who are likely to drink and get behind the wheel.
From the latest alcohol-detecting devices for use in traffic stops, to the preventative measures required for some repeat drunk driver's to start their vehicles at all, officials want to intercept those who are driving drunk, and to prevent those likely to drive drunk from doing so again.
New DUI Technology on the Street
Alcohol-sensing flashlights: These flashlights, which appear similar to the ordinary lights that officers already carry, contain sensors that can detect alcohol on a person's breath when used within a foot or so. A green light on the flashlight indicates the detection of a small amount of alcohol, while a red light indicates a particular odor.
While these lights aren't admissible in court as evidence, they do help police officers to determine whether a field sobriety test is in order. These special flashlights went into use recently in Illinois, in conjunction with increased roadside safety checkpoints and higher patrol presence, to curb DUIs during the late summer holidays.
Intoxilyzer 8000: Though similar to traditional breath test machines that detect the blood-alcohol levels of those who breathe into them, this newer model is more portable and intended for use by officers on the scene. Additionally, the data gathered with the Intoxilyzer 8000 is admissible as evidence in court. Previously an officer would have to take a suspected driver from the scene to a hospital or a police station for testing with a non-portable version of the Intoxilyzer.
Technology to Prevent Repeat DUI Offenses
Ignition interlock devices: The oldest and best-known preventative for repeat DUI offenders is the ignition interlock system. When this device is attached to the car of a previous offender, he or she must breathe into a special apparatus to start the car. If the machine detects alcohol, it won't start. Once underway, the driver must continue to breathe into the machine to ensure uninhibited driving. Should it detect alcohol at any point, the car's alarm system will activate to notify police, and in some newer cases the car's engine may even shut down automatically, though this is not yet common.
Fingerprint activation / Motor skills testing: In the works are systems that require a potential driver to activate a fingerprint detection system, then perform various motor skill functions in order to start the car. This method ensures that a driver is not impaired before operating a vehicle.
Continuous alcohol monitoring: The same function is served by another device that can detect alcohol in the system via sweat on the skin. This ankle bracelet, issued as a result of a court's decision, will feature a transdermal alcohol sensor that can detect and transmit information about the wearer to a remote sensor. This and other passive alcohol sensors could be used much like the ignition interlock system: to help prevent repeat DUI offenders from making the same mistakes again without the knowledge being passed to officials.
Law enforcement officials know the consequences of drunk driving, from accidents to jail time and penalties. And while opinions vary with regard to how new technologies are implemented, there is no shortage of ideas that might help prevent DUIs and repeat offenses in the future.