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New Weapon for Law Enforcement in Fighting Drunk Driving

Many people may have a glass of wine when out to dinner with their family or friends, or have a beer or a drink when out at a happy hour after work. Most are aware of the penalties that come with a conviction for DUI, and are careful to avoid putting themselves into a potentially difficult situation.

However, funding in a recently passed transportation bill may bring drastic changes for people who have a drink and then try to drive home. The bill has set aside five million dollars toward researching various alcohol-detection features for new vehicles. This means that in the future, your car may be the one making the decision whether or not you are able to drive home.

The devices would prevent the vehicles from starting if an individual's blood-alcohol content is over the legal limit. Unlike ignition interlock systems, a driver may not have to blow into the device right away when he or she is behind the wheel. Instead, there may be technology used that is in steering wheels or breath-sensors in the vehicle that would measure the driver's BAC.

Once a reading higher than the programmed limit is detected, the vehicle would automatically shut down. Research is still being conducted to determine a safe way of disabling a vehicle that is in motion. Officials have been working since 2008 to find a practical system that can be used across many different vehicles.

Critics of this technology are concerned that the systems may be set at very low BAC levels, such as .02 or .03, in order to prevent a person from getting behind the wheel before the alcohol has been completely absorbed into the bloodstream. Such a setting could make it impossible for a person to have any alcohol at all before driving.

Source: USA Today "Alcohol-sensing technology could become standard in all cars" Larry Copeland, June 29, 2012.

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