Roughly 33% of Americans are involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives. In 2006, the number of people who died in traffic crashes involving alcohol accounted for 41% of the total number of traffic fatalities. That same year, 1.46 million arrests were made concerning people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
What’s most disheartening is that these fatalities could have easily been prevented. The best and easiest way to avoid drunk driving accidents is not to get behind the wheel after drinking. Before partaking in festivities involving alcohol, assign a person to provide a safe and sober ride home who will only drink non-alcoholic beverages.
Many groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), work as anti-drunk driving advocates and endeavor to pass stricter laws to punish offenders. Currently, MADD is working to combine new technologies with drunk driving prevention.
Ways of preventing drunk driving accidents through technology include:
- Advanced breath testing.
- Using visible light to measure a person’s BAC through spectroscopy.
- Using touch-based systems to measure blood alcohol content levels through skin.
- Using eye-movement measurement technology to detect involuntary eye movements related to elevated BAC levels and eye closure that is representative of drowsiness.
The use of ignition locks is growing in popularity, and MADD wants to make them mandatory for all cars. Installing an ignition lock in repeat offenders’ cars is a possibility in many states.
An ignition lock is a machine that is connected to a car’s ignition and checks the driver’s blood alcohol content level. The driver has to blow into the machine to start the car and do so from time to time while the car is running. If alcohol is detected, the car either does not start or turns itself off. If a driver fails the test while the car is in motion, the vehicle’s horn will honk, or the lights will flash to get the attention of law enforcement officials.
Law enforcement agencies can help reduce the number of car crashes related to alcohol by making themselves visible on the roadways, especially during the holidays when the number of crashes greatly increases.
Officers can set up saturation patrols, which are concentrated enforcement efforts that look out for driving irregularities (e.g., reckless driving, speeding, aggressive driving). Saturation patrols are usually spread over a broad area.
Sobriety checkpoints are another way to prevent traffic accidents. Checkpoints give officers the opportunity to evaluate drivers for signs of alcohol impairment at various points along a roadway. Usually, cars are stopped in a specific sequence, such as stopping every fourth car. If an officer suspects that a driver has been drinking, the officer may ask the driver to submit to a field or breathalyzer test.