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Blood alcohol detection may become auto safety option

Drivers in Pennsylvania and across the country may soon have access to technology in their vehicles that will prevent them from driving while intoxicated. Researchers are developing an alcohol detection system that will measure blood alcohol content quickly and prevent the vehicle from moving if the driver's level is above the legal limit.

Drunk driving fatalities have gone down over the past several years. However, even with all of the education and enforcement efforts, it is still responsible for approximately 10,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. The goal of the alcohol detection system is to reduce that number even lower by making it more difficult for someone to drive while drunk.

Unlike the devices that some states install in cars of people who have been found guilty of DWI, the new device is intended to be a permanent feature in a vehicle, a safety option similar to blind spot warnings and automatic braking. Two integrated technologies are under development. One would measure blood alcohol content as the driver breathes normally inside the car. The other is a touch-based system which would measure blood alcohol by shining an infrared light through the driver's fingertip.

People who are intent on drinking while driving will find a way around any detection system. However, by integrating the system into the car, some people who would otherwise drive while drunk will have to call a cab or rely on someone else to drive. Although the new technology is not yet available, individuals who don't trust themselves to avoid drinking and driving may want to consider including the detector as a feature in their next vehicle purchase rather than run the risk of being named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by a personal injury attorney on behalf of an injured victim.

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