Can We Stop Alcohol Related Car Accidents Before They Happen?

Can We Stop Alcohol Related Car Accidents Before They Happen?

Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published the annual report of traffic fatalities for 2011. The year showed a decline in overall deaths due to car accidents. However, the prevalence of alcohol related deaths is a black mark on the otherwise encouraging statistics. The National Traffic Safety Board has offered a few ways that accidents due to drivers under the influence may be stopped.

There was a 2.5 percent drop in the overall number of accident fatalities in 2011. Of the 32,367 deaths on the road in 2011, about 30 percent were known to be related to alcohol. That’s almost 10,000 lives that might have been saved if a drunken person had chosen to abstain from driving instead of endangering the lives of everyone on the road.

One area where drunk drivers represent the majority of offenders is driving on the wrong side of the road. About 60 percent of drivers who cause accidents by using the oncoming traffic lane are drunk. Another 15 percent of wrong way drivers are seniors who have become confused with what lane to use. Both can cause dangerous head-on collisions.

While preventing seniors from driving is a separate issue that raises tension, drunk driving is a preventable act with certain boundaries in place. There are a few ways that the problem could be prevented. Both ideas offered by the NTSB related to technology that would physically prevent a drunk driver from taking the wheel.

One shared way that some may be familiar with is the ignition interlock system. If the driver cannot pass a breathalyzer test connected to the car’s ignition, then the meaningful will not turn the engine over. About 17 states require these devices for drivers on their first conviction of driving under the influence. Other states only require this device for repeat offenders, while others don’t require it at all.

The other way the NTSB believes drunk driving can be prevented is by developing new technology that requires a blood alcohol reading. This would eliminate the problem presented by ignition interlock systems where anyone can take the breathalyzer test, whether or not the driver is drunk. A blood test would be more specific to the driver by somehow reading from the steering wheel. This kind of advancement is nevertheless theoretical.

On top of the physical boundaries barring the technology from appearing in cars, some sort of legislation would be required to put anti-drunk driving devices in place. Creating a safety standard of this sort needs action from lawmakers.

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