Will new cars all come with alcohol detection systems?

State and federal governments have been trying for years to solve the problem of drunk driving. You may agree that it is a serious issue since about 30 people die in alcohol-related accidents each day. Some measures include lowering the blood alcohol concentration limit, increasing the penalties for conviction and requiring convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock systems in their vehicles.

Since ignition interlock systems have had some success in lowering the number of DUI accidents and fatalities, Congress is working to mandate similar systems in every new car as early as 2024. The proposed program is called Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. Like many South Carolina residents who hear this news, you may have many questions about how this may work and whether it may place your rights at risk.

How will it work?

Ignition interlock systems require a driver to submit a breath sample by blowing hard into a mouthpiece. The device then analyzes the driver’s breath, and if it determines there is alcohol in the driver’s system, it locks the car’s ignition and prevents it from starting. You may agree that this is a reasonable consequence for someone who already has a drunk driving conviction. However, the proposed technology has more passive capabilities.

In fact, the delicate sensors in the DADSS can detect alcohol through your normal breathing rather than blowing deeply. The glitch developers are working through is avoiding having the system lock you out of starting your vehicle if it detects alcohol on your passengers’ breaths, such as if you are the designated driver. A second kind of technology involves the system reading your BAC through the capillaries in your finger when you touch the vehicle’s start button or steering wheel.

You have rights

Someone using an ignition interlock device following a conviction for DUI often suffers legal ramifications for a failed attempt to start a vehicle because the device reports such actions to authorities. Media reports do not mention whether the pending legislation includes legal consequences for those without criminal convictions when the DADSS device detects alcohol in their systems. Will the system store records of your failed attempts that the court may use against you in the future?

For now, DADSS developers are working on ways to make the system as accurate and inconspicuous as possible. This means you will have to rely on your own good judgement to avoid driving when you have had too much to drink. If you should find yourself facing DUI charges, you would be wise to protect your future by seeking the representation of a skilled attorney.