Virginia roads provide testing opportunity for drunk driving prevention technology

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 5:27 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A trucking company is using Virginia roads to test new technology aimed at reducing drunk driving.

The public-private partnership involves DADSS, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, as well as the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) and Schneider.

DADSS has been working on, essentially, a mobile breathalyzer.

“You as the driver would just simply get in the car, in this instance the truck, give a puff of air toward the sensor inlet, like you’re blowing a candle,” says Rob Strassburger, President and CEO of ACTS. “And that mere act, the sensor withdrawing your breath plume, would be able, using infrared light can determine whether you have alcohol in your system.”

If the driver’s blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit, the car won’t move. He said testing so far shows the technology is about 97 percent effective.

The partnership is installing the alcohol detection technology in eight Schneider trucks that will drive nearly 100,000 miles each on Virginia roads. This is not because there is concern about drunk driving for the truckers. In fact, Strassburger said, it’s among the safest industries when it comes to impaired driving. But the wear and tear of thousands of miles will help researchers evaluate the technology’s durability.

Other testing includes determining whether a designated sober driver can successfully drive a passenger who has been drinking without the passenger’s breath affecting the driver’s sensor.

Strassburger said test subjects who have been drinking are never placed behind the wheel of a functioning vehicle, but rather participate in static tests.

He believes they will be able to make these features available in personal vehicles within the next few years.

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