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New system might prevent drunken driving accidents

Many of the most serious car accidents happen after an intoxicated driver gets behind the wheel. According to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 10,839 fatalities in car accidents involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher in 2009, the most recent year with available data. Those 10,839 deaths accounted for 32 percent of traffic fatalities in 2009.

With nearly one-third of traffic fatalities involving a drunken driver, DWI accidents are a very serious cause for concern. With those concerns in mind, government officials are looking for technological solution to prevent fatal alcohol-related accidents.

Government officials are hailing a new system called the in-vehicle Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) as a great leap forward in the efforts to prevent DWI accidents. DADSS is designed to quickly check a driver's blood-alcohol concentration. Similar to existing vehicle ignition interlocks, DADSS is designed to prevent a drunken driver from starting a car's engine. One model being tested would detect the alcohol concentration in the exhaled breath of a driver. Another model would detect alcohol levels by scanning a driver's fingertips.

Proponents of DADSS believe the devices could dramatically reduce the nearly 11,000 deaths caused by drunken driving each year. Presently, government officials are not suggesting that DADSS be a mandatory feature in automobiles. Nevertheless, some in the insurance industry believe that insurance companies could offer discounts to policyholders who have DADSS if the system is shown to reduce the likelihood of a driver having an accident.

When most people think of DWI, they think of the criminal justice system. While criminal punishment sanctions drunken drivers, it does little to compensate accident victims. Civil lawsuits have an important role to play for the victims of a drunken driving accident. With a civil lawsuit, injury victims of a drunken driver can seek monetary compensation from the both the driver himself and the establishment that served him.

Sources:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts, Alcohol-Impaired Driving (retrieved from http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811385.pdf)

Boston Herald, "Feds lead charge for alcohol detector," Richard Weir, 1/29/2011

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