Technologies to make drunk driving impossible

Road safety also requires technological advances. New American cars should have a system preventing drink-driving as standard from 2026. In Switzerland, the alcohol interlock device could disappear from the law.

All new vehicles will be required to have a system that prevents drunk driving. In the United States, the system should be mandatory for all new cars from 2026. Congress has mandated the US Department of Transportation to find a new technological solution.

Until now, we mainly knew the system Alcolock or breathalyzer interlock. The driver blows into a device. And if the alcohol level in the breath is higher than the authorized limit, the device prevents the vehicle from starting. The technology has been used for about ten years in Europe.

But Americans want to innovate. The “Drinking and Driving Safety Detection System” program is working with 17 car manufacturers to offer the future system that will be fitted to all cars.

An invisible technology

There is, for example, a technology based on breathing. A sensor in the car analyzes the air you naturally blow. If there is too much alcohol, the vehicle will not start. Another technique is based on the hit. A device analyzes your alcohol level the moment you put your finger on the start button.

There is also driver monitoring, which has progressed in recent years. Real-time video can track head position or gaze direction. The car could gradually stop if it perceives a danger.

In Europe, too, the subject is of concern. The European Union has just made compulsory 7 new driving aids. They are valid from July this year for new types of vehicles and, for the majority, from 2024 for all new cars. In the lot, there is a location and the wiring to install an alcohol interlock device.

Discussions in Parliament

Switzerland has just taken over the decisions of the EU, with in particular the location for the Alcolock. But, at the beginning of March, the National council removed the alcohol interlock device from the Federal Highway Traffic Act, Via Sicura.

For five years from the return of a learner driver’s license or a driving license withdrawn for an indefinite period due to repeated driving while intoxicated, the holder of the license may no longer drive under the influence of alcohol and will only be allowed to drive vehicles fitted with an alcohol ignition interlock device

Art. 17 a2, Federal Road Traffic Act

The parliamentarians decided by majority to follow the opinion of the Federal Council, based on two observations. Firstly, serious alcohol-related accidents have decreased by 44% in 10 years. Second, the system was only imposed on repeat offenders. A doctor must in any case judge that they have overcome their problem to recover their license. The measure was in fact never actually applied, according to the Accident Prevention Bureau (BPA).

However, alcohol still kills on Swiss roads. Last year, there were 143 serious injuries and 13 deaths due to drunk drivers, according to BPA figures. The left will try one last time to save the alcohol interlock device this summer at the Council of States. Not much chance of getting there.

Pascal Wassmer

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Technologies to make drunk driving impossible

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