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Smart car technology would prevent DUI accidents, hopefully

Friends don't let friends drive drunk. Older drivers in the Galveston area will likely recognize that slogan. It was first introduced in public service announcements in 1983 and is still in use today, though perhaps not as often.

According to the Ad Council, the group responsible for the campaign, it's been pretty successful. It cites research showing that 68 percent of Americans confirm that they have tried to stop someone from drinking and driving since it all started. But is it enough? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn't think so.

Deadly accidents due to alcohol-impaired drivers are less common than they used to be back when that ad effort started, but Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx suggests more can be done. What he indicates he'd like to see is broad adoption of what's called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADDS).

The technology features two devices that officials say they would like to see made available as options on cars in the next five years. One device would be a steering wheel-mounted analyzer that measures only the driver's breath in the passenger compartment. The other would be an infrared sensor attached to the engine start button. If they determine a driver is over the legal blood alcohol content limit, the vehicle won't start.

Federal officials recently unveiled a new test vehicle equipped with the devices. They suggest that further testing should show that the devices can do the job accurately -- an apparent acknowledgment of concerns about potential false positives.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says it estimates the technology could save as many as 7,000 lives annually.

Source: PCMag.com, "Can Technology Stop Drunk Driving?" Angela Moscaritolo, June 5, 2015

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