Drinking and driving is illegal in every state. Over the years, the law has recognized the danger of impaired driving and has cracked down on offenders. Many states lowered their allowable blood alcohol content to .08 and enhanced the penalties for drivers caught driving drunk. But increasing penalties, tightening standards and increasing the enforcement of these laws has not put a stop to the problem. The approach taken by lawmakers has failed to make the roads safe from drunk drivers.
Technology may provide a solution that simply banning the practice has failed to achieve. Cars and trucks are currently required to include substantial safety equipment that was not required just a few short years ago. The government has given the auto industry mandates in the areas of fuel efficiency and emissions. It clearly has the ability to require auto makers to make changes. Auto makers have also agreed to voluntary standards intended to make driving safer. There is currently a discussion regarding in-car technology that is meant to reduce distracted driving.
The two methods most readily available to prevent drinking and driving could be ignition interlock devices and self-driving vehicles. Ignition interlock devices are already used in many states as a penalty for being caught drinking and driving. The installation of such a device requires the driver to blow into a breathalyzer before the car will start. Every vehicle could be installed with such a device. Self-driving vehicles are still in the testing phase, but many auto makers are convinced that the technology will soon be a reality.
However we choose to address the problem, it is clear that alcohol is still a major factor in many auto accidents. Thousands of people die every year in car accidents involving a driver who has been drinking. More needs to be done to protect the driving public from harm.
Source: Huffington Post, “Problem Solving: How Washington Can Learn From Silicon Valley,” by Josiah Tullis, 21 February 2013