August 15, 2011

DADSS Turning Cars Into the Cure for Drunk Driving

Hope. I love that word. I cherish the concept. I treasure the feeling. There were so many days after my daughter was killed by a drunk driver that I felt buried in the dark hole of despair, when I could see no possibility of light. It was a difficult climb to the surface, one I could never have made on my own. One person who held the light on for me until I could see it myself was my MADD victim advocate, always there to care, listen, and support.

Anger also accompanied my despair. I was furious with our society. How could we allow this violent crime to exist? It is so preventable. It is so unnecessary. I became vocal, actively participating with MADD to get "tougher" laws, believing that would become a deterrent so more folks would decide to drive sober or have a sober designated driver. Sadly, after a few years I became disheartened. The number of America's family members killed by drunk driving stayed relatively the same. My hope was waning. In fact, I was downright discouraged.

Some people continue to drive drunk because they can. Interestingly, because all the education and deterrents and punishments do not seem to stop the drunks from driving, we now have the development of advanced technology that will turn the cars into the cure.

Today my hope is renewed. We are living in the time when the vaccine to this horrible disease of drunk driving and the destruction it leaves in its path is being created and tested. Right you read is happening!

JT Griffin, MADD's Senior Vice-President of Public Policy, and I recently were privileged to visit the laboratory where it is being researched in Boston. Bud Zaouk (the gentleman with the dark hair you see in the photos) graciously educated and escorted us through the facility. It was inspiring.

The technology is called Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS. It is a technology that will integrate a passive sensor into the vehicle, being able to detect the precise amount of alcohol in the driver's system. If that driver is at or above the legal limit of 0.08 BAC, the car simply will not start, or be driveable. The performance specifications are set at an extremely high level. It must perform absolutely accurately, precisely, reliably and work in a very short time (millisecond). This is now being tested for vehicle integration and consumers will have the option of purchasing a car with it already part of the package - much the way we had the option of having air bags in our vehicles years ago when they became available. It will not be mandated.

The DADSS is not to be confused with today's alcohol ignition interlock systems that convicted drunk drivers are sometimes required to place in their vehicles. They certainly are an effective tool in reducing drunk driving. In states requiring those for all convicted drunk drivers, fatalities caused by drunk driving have been reduced by over 30%. However, they are calibrated at a lower level of 0.02 BAC, because a person convicted of drunk driving is not allowed to have any alcohol while driving.

DADSS program is studying two prototypes. One is distant spectrometry, which uses infrared sensors that are triangulated on the person in the driver's seat. The other uses tissue spectrometry, which uses near infrared light that will perhaps be imbedded in the start button or the gear shift.

It was astonishing to have the mechanisms explained and demonstrated, indicating how very close we are to having this become part of our everyday reality...which means to me, to have the cars be the cure...which means that there will be a day when the car will simply not allow a person to drive it when impaired by alcohol at or above the legal limit.

The DADSS project is funded by our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. MADD is now urging Congress to support the ROADS SAFE Act, which will lengthen the time of funding this important research.

THIS WILL SAVE SO MANY LIVES. This is my hope. I hope it becomes your hope. Do call or email your Congressperson and tell them you want them to support this life-saving legislation. It very well could save the life of someone you love.

Warmly, Jan Withers

National MADD President


misty said...

If that driver is at or above the legal limit of 0.08 BAC, the car simply will not start, or be driveable.
Sadly the person who killed our son was below the limit by one drink,so he will never be charged,0.08 should be lowered to 0 tolerance, we have this for boats, planes, why not cars also? But I hope something can be done in the meantime to help deter them from getting behind the wheel of vehicles.

Lisa said...

I am the wife of a law enforcement officer in Southwest Ohio. I want to help educate people on the dangers of drunk driving. What can I do or who can I contact? There may be other wives in the group I am part of that would be willing to work on a project as well.


mase said...

There will be some that oppose this deterrent because it will add to the cost of a new car. Any idea what that cost might be if it was to be added on mass produced autos?
Has three been any discussion with the auto insurance industry about possible discounts available to cars that are equipped with DADSS?
The death of our son caused by an intoxicated driver cost the auto insurance companies something between $500,000 and $1,000,000. Seems as though the prevention of several claims like that each year would be of interest to the auto insurance industry. (I work in the insurance industry).

Unknown said...

The age limit should be much higher than 21 due to the fact I tell you as I witnessed and my husband was about to jump down off our moving truck he was hit by a 22year old male. It was in 1999 the end of September. All he was trying to find was our groceries box, which he had clenched in his arms and hands when he was struck hard by an after party drunk. It doesn't matter the age one is really. He lived and I lived to tell this story. I realize there are many more heart wrenching stories. It doesn't matter how old they are and if it's a male or female or who. My son was one. Imagine...what is left behind and the financial impacts on families with no fore warnings except being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Survivor's guilt is a bear. Thankyou for all that's trying to be done.