Chicago drunk driving car accidents could someday be eliminated by new technology

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration unveiled new technology last week that could someday eliminate the threat of drunk driving car accidents in Chicago and elsewhere.

Our Chicago personal injury attorneys frequently report on the dangers of drunk driving crashes in Illinois. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports alcohol was involved in 42 percent of fatal Illinois car crashes in 2009. A total of 381 motorists were killed as a result of drunk driving crashes.The Illinois Department of Transportation reports at least 85 people were killed and 316 seriously injured in Chicago car accidents involving alcohol or drugs in 2009.

As authorities continue to look for ways to reduce the dangers of traffic crashes involving alcohol, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working to develop the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS).

Unlike ignition interlock devices — which are temporarily placed in the cars of some repeat DUI offenders and test for the presence of alcohol before the car will start — the DADSS is designed as standard equipment installed by the manufacturer. Prototypes work by either passively testing a drivers breath for the presence of alcohol or by touch, such as a thumbprint.

“Drunk driving continues to be a national tragedy that needlessly claims the lives of thousands of people on our highways each year,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We need to put an end to it.”

Federal data shows drivers in fatal accidents with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of .08 are eight times more likely to have been previously convicted of DUI than drivers who did not test positive for the presence of alcohol at the time of a crash.

The research has the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other road-safety organizations. “Auto makers have stepped up to help turn cars into the cure,” said MADD President Laura Dean-Mooney. “This project has made substantial progress and this technology could one day be an important step in our efforts to eliminate drunk driving.”

The $10 million government effort is being conducted in conjunction with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, which is an industry group representing most of the world’s auto manufacturers.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland called it the “new frontier” in automotive safety but cautioned it won’t replace common sense.

“Whatever the future holds for these advanced drunk driving prevention technologies, one thing remains clear; no technology can, or should, ever replace a driver’s personal responsibility not to drive drunk,” Strickland said.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Chicago car accident involving a drunk driver, contact Abels & Annes for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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