Can drunk driving be designed away? Maybe not, but Takata , http://www.takata.com/en/about>-TruTouch< http://www.trutouchtech.com> is working on technology that could minimize it, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA < www.nhtsa.gov>) supports their efforts. NHTSA has awarded the company $2.25 million to continue developing its In-Vehicle Alcohol Detection test.
The Takata-Trutouch system will use light and a finger-sized touch pad to measure a driver’s BAC and will disable the car’s starter if his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds the legal limit. Their goal is one of prevention through design.
The only ignition interlocks currently available are used mainly by convicted drunk drivers who are under court order to do so. These systems require drivers to blow into an alcohol sensor that is attached to the ignition. If their BAC is below a specified level, the car is allowed to start. The devices are slow (a measurement can take 30 seconds to several minutes) and not as accurate as the breathalyzers used by police.
The envisioned Takata-TruTouch system would be inexpensive, noninvasive, fast, accurate, and reliable. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS < http://www.dadss.org/>) believes these elements are necessary to encourage the wide-spread use of such systems. In 2007, 13,583 people died in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety < http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr4407.pdf> estimates that 8,893 of those lives would have been saved if alcohol detection devices that prevented drivers with a BAC of .08% or more from starting their cars had been installed on all vehicles.
Time will tell if this product meets its potential. We need more products on the market that seek to prevent injuries through design and not simply rely on changing human behavior to solve tough problems like drunk driving.
Video: Takata-TruTouch system http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTuMsOx1dZ4