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New Technology Promises to End Drunk Driving in Michigan

Sep 2nd, 2016 Breath Testing DUI Enforcement

A recent USA Today article describes two different technologies that promise to end the occurrence of drunk driving in Michigan within 5 to 8 years.  These include a breath monitoring system that does not require the driver to breathe into a tube, and a sort of fingerprint monitor that measures alcohol through the skin.

The first technology measures the breath of the driver by drawing it into a chamber that compares the amount of carbon dioxide in the breath to the amount of ethanol.  Once the ratio passes a certain point, the car won’t start.  According to the article the device uses infrared light to make the measurements, the same type of technology used to determine a driver’s bodily alcohol content through breath testing in a drunk driving case in Michigan.

Relative to this particular technology the article is silent relative to how the monitoring device “knows” that it is measuring the driver’s breath alcohol rather than a passenger’s breath alcohol.  The article also fails to address what will happen if the ration is below when the car starts but gets above as the car is being operated.  Will the car make the driver pull over and stop operating?  If so, then can a sober passenger take over?

The other technology uses “spectroscopy” to measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s body through the skin.  The article fails to mention the type of spectroscopy, and the author of the article may know have known that the infrared mentioned relative to breath is also a type of spectroscopy.  In any event, the car will not stop if the skin measurement shows a BAC above the legal limit.

This skin measurement could be incorporated into a start button for example, or embedded elsewhere.  Like the breath measurements, there are unanswered questions, such as whether or not either technology will work in very low temperatures, or in the case of skin, whether or not a gloved hand can be used to start the car.

Since the article mentions that the technologies will be offered as options in cars, and not come standard, it seems that they will not have much of an impact on drunk driving; at least at first.  Once laws are passed to make the technology mandatory, then perhaps there will be a real drop in the numbers of drunk drivers.

In the meanwhile, arrests for driving under the influence of drugs in Michigan are increasing, and will continue to increase as the numbers of drunk driving cases in Michigan decline.