Today, if the government of Minnesota wants to restrict your ability to start your car once you have consumed alcohol, it can do so under certain circumstances after being charged with a DWI and prior to a conviction. A drunk driving conviction, again in certain instances, may allow the court to order installation of an ignition interlock device as part of an defendant’s probation. The ignition interlock device is a nifty machine that plugs directly into your car and controls your ability to start the car. When you enter the car, you must blow into the ignition interlock device before you can turn the car on. The device registers whether an individual has consumed alcohol. If no alcohol is detected, you are permitted to start the car. If the presence of alcohol is detected, you will not be able to drive. In addition, some devices require drivers to periodically blow while operating the vehicle to prevent drivers from drinking while driving.
An ignition interlock device is bulky, onerous, and expensive for the government to install and supervise. But what if cars automatically came with a device similar to the ignition interlock device?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently overseeing a brand new project known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). DADSS is a collaboration by seventeen car manufacturers, anti-drunk driving advocacy groups, and the NHTSA, known as the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS). The purpose of ACTS is to find ways to prevent drivers from getting on the road in the first place when their BAC is over 0.08. ACTS developed DADSS in response to growing concern over drunk driving. While NHTSA has traditionally focused on education and awareness, DADSS is the first attempt into implementing a concrete plan to physically prevent drunk driving. Though NHTSA is a regulatory agency, the DADSS system seeks to circumvent regulatory and law enforcement involvement by putting the power in the drivers’ hands.
So what is DADSS? DADSS is a proprietary in-vehicle technology that will be installed and equipped in vehicles by car manufacturers. The technology will prevent a driver from moving their car, much like an ignition interlock device. ACTS has thus far conducted research into touch and breath-based systems. Now, ACTS is focusing on testing the two different systems.
The touch-based system will analyze the surface of the skin for any trace evidence of alcohol. If the skin is contaminated with alcohol, the driver will be unable to start the car. The touch-based system will be easy-to-use and will be able to analyze skin in a fraction of a second. Car manufacturers estimate that small touchpads, akin to fingerprint readers used on smartphones, can be installed by the ignition to quickly check the finger for alcohol before allowing ignition.
The breath-based system will work similarly to the ignition interlock device without all of the bulk and hassle. When a driver enters the car and simply exhales, the car will analyze the contents of the breath. If the BAC is below the legal limit, the driver will be able to start the car. Like the touch-based system, this system will also take only a fraction of a second.
The allure of these systems is that they give the drivers the option to practice safe driving by purchasing cars equipped with the systems. However, there are some kinks that have not yet been worked out. For instance, if a driver routinely handles alcohol without actually consuming it, such as a bartender, the driver will likely test positive for alcohol through the touch-based system and will be unable to drive home from work.
If you were arrested for driving while intoxicated in Minneapolis, our Bloomington, Minnesota criminal defense law firm, the Kans Law Firm, LLC, can assist you with combatting DWI charges. Call us at (952) 835-6314 to schedule a free appointment.