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Challenges ahead for tech intended to stop drunk driving

Regular readers of our Chattanooga criminal law blog know that Tennessee can impose harsh sentences on those who are arrested and convicted of drunk driving. A new proposal in Congress could be the first step in eventually eliminating DUI arrests not only here, but across the nation.

The proposed legislation would require all new passenger vehicles to be equipped with alcohol-detection systems by 2024. As older vehicles are replaced with newer models over the years, the U.S. will eventually (if the proposal is made into law) be free of drunk driving crashes and arrests.

If the proposal is adopted, each vehicle would have a passive alcohol-detection system which would prevent the car, pick-up or SUV from being started if the system determined that the driver had a level of alcohol in his or her body that exceeded the legal threshold. In Tennessee, the legal threshold is a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08 percent.

Two systems are currently in development. One would analyze the normally exhaled breath of the driver to determine BAC, while the other would use a special light analyze the capillaries in the driver’s finger to detect an acceptable level of alcohol.

According to a news report, neither technology has been developed to the point that it would not only be “seamless, accurate and precise” enough to stop folks from driving drunk, but also reliable enough that they would never prevent sober people from operating vehicles.

There are a number of challengers for developers to overcome before either system is ready for widespread use in just five years.



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