The Associated Press reported today that the government is speeding up their research on safety systems that would prevent automobile accidents and the loss of lives due to such accidents. The safety systems being looked at closely would automatically prevent drivers that are drunk or unbuckled from operating a vehicle. Officials will use their findings to determine which recommendations they will make to the auto industry regarding new vehicle features. Some of these features are already present in some high-end vehicles like collision avoidance, seat belt interlocks and driver alcohol detection. The collision avoidance system alerts drivers when they are about to run into another vehicle and will brake automatically to avoid a crash or lessen its damage. Last year, one-third of all police reported crashes started with one vehicle striking the rear end of another vehicle.
The seat belt interlock system works by preventing cars and trucks from being driven when the driver or a passenger isn't buckled in properly. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this could potentially save about 3,000 lives a year. The agency is also considering whether it should change safety standards to allow automakers to use the devices to satisfy current government requirements for occupant protection in crash tests.
Alcohol detection systems, such as those NHTSA is researching with automakers, work simply by a driver putting his hands on the steering wheel, pushing a start button with a finger or simply breathing to detect an illegal alcohol limit. The touch or air samples determine whether the driver's blood alcohol content is above the .08 legal limit. The hope is to eventually include the systems as standard or optional equipment in new vehicles, regardless of whether the driver has a history of drunken driving. "The automatic system would be enabled every time the car is started, but unobtrusive so it would not pose an inconvenience to the non-intoxicated driver," the agency said.The agency stresses the importance of such as safety system as there were 10,322 people killed in drunken driving crashes last year, a 4.6 percent increase over 2011. Most of the drivers involved had a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or higher, nearly double the legal limit. "Such technology could save thousands of these victims every year," the agency said.
After six years of declines, the increase in drunken driving deaths is "alarming," said Jan Withers, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "This news is frustrating because we know what works, and we know how to stop these senseless tragedies."