New car technology continues to improve the driving experience while making cars safer and more reliable. However, new technology can sometimes be viewed as an invasion of privacy and a threat to individual rights.

This is the argument over two new devices which seek to stop drunk driving before it starts. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood just unveiled the creation of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). This new technology will sense the amount of alcohol in a driver’s system. If it is higher than the legal limit of .08, the car will not start.

The idea for this technology is not new. In fact, it is already being used in interlock ignition devices. What makes this technology so ground-breaking, however, is that it is faster, more accurate, and employs two different detection systems.

Unlike current breathalyzers that require the driver to blow into a tube, these devices detect the amount of alcohol in the air coming from the driver’s breath. They also triangulate where the driver is sitting to make sure that only his breath is being measured. A similar alcohol detection device was also unveiled that can measure a driver’s blood alcohol content by scanning his fingertips.

But perhaps the most significant part of this announcement is that this technology could become mandatory on all new cars within the next decade. LaHood was careful to say that the inclusion of this particular technology would be voluntary, but he has been reported as saying that the government plans to make alcohol detection systems mandatory as soon as the technology becomes widely available. The government has also allocated millions of dollars in research money to develop this technology.

If and when DADSS becomes mandatory, it will likely have a huge impact on efforts to reduce drunk driving. However, it will also harass average citizens with no criminal record and no intention of driving drunk. With this new technology, all drivers will be guilty until proven innocent, and that’s a violation of our constitutional rights.

Source: The Boston Herald online, “Feds lead charge for alcohol detector,”Richard Weir, 29 January 2011

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