Technology has come a long way in addressing and reducing impaired and distracted driving. However, with all of this advancement, drunk driving continues to be a serious problem across the US.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are nearly 30 traffic fatalities daily due to drunk driving. In 2017 alone, nearly 11,000 deaths were attributed to drunk driving crashes at a cost of more than $44 billion. The same goes for distracted driving in which individuals who text or check emails while driving are eight times more likely to be involved in an automobile accident.
Several vehicle manufacturers—especially Volvo—have introduced new technologies in their vehicles to help eradicate this ongoing problem.
Volvo—A leader in safety
Volvo has always been among the industry leaders in terms of safe vehicles; however, the company is taking an additional step by installing active technology to combat drunk and distracted drivers. Such technology includes in-car cameras that are able to evaluate and monitor drivers’ actions and identify whether a driver is impaired.
The specifics are not currently known; however, these cameras will be able to identify drivers who close their eyes or direct them away from the road for extended periods of time while also identifying erratic steering, excessively slow reaction times, extreme weaving and lane changes, or other clues that a driver may be impaired and/or otherwise distracted. If impairment or distraction is identified, Volvo says that several warnings and/or automatic responses could take effect such as limiting the vehicle’s speed, making the car stop safely, or notifying Volvo’s On Call service who could dispatch police and or medical personnel.
Volvo reports that this technology could be installed in its new vehicles in the early 2020s in addition to other new technology to limit speeds on its vehicles to 112 mph (180 km/hr).
Nissan has introduced a drunk-driving prevention concept car as well with new alcohol odor high-sensitivity sensors being built into the transmission shift knob to detect alcohol in a driver’s hand perspiration as s/he starts driving. If the detected alcohol is above a predetermined level, the vehicle locks the transmission so the car cannot be driven. Other sensors are also used throughout the driver’s and passenger seats in order to detect the presence of alcohol in the air inside of the car. If alcohol is detected, the vehicle issues voice and navigation system alerts.
Nissan is also investigating the use of in-vehicle cameras to monitor the driver’s face as well as other systems that can identify distracted or impaired driving behaviors and notify the driver via seatbelt tightening mechanisms or other audio/visual notifications.
Other manufacturer efforts
A consortium of automakers is investigating other potentially life-saving onboard technologies such as special touch pads in push-to-start buttons and steering wheels, on-board ignition interlock devices (IID), and air sensors to identify whether a driver is under the influence. Of course, these devices must be “highly accurate, very fast, and completely passive” and used only when necessary to prevent a drunk driver from taking the road. This program, known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), seeks to conduct research and develop products for DUI/DWI prevention technology in vehicles.
Such technology is touted as being a step above traditional breathalyzers used by police officers during traffic stops because the new, onboard technology doesn’t require a long, sustained breath and multiple attempts in order to obtain an accurate reading. Further, traditional breathalyzers are notoriously unreliable and require constant calibration to remain in proper working order.
With time, many hope these onboard technologies may become standard equipment.