Ignition interlock devices have become the go-to DUI punishment/deterrent around the country, including in Arizona. The breathalyzer-type devices require a driver to provide a breath sample for testing before allowing the car to start. If the analysis shows blood alcohol concentration above a certain threshold, the IID locks the car, preventing it from starting. International research shows the effectiveness of ignition interlock devices at reducing repeat DUIs between 40% to 95%

Researchers are working on improving on the IID by producing automatic alcohol detecting systems that do not require any effort on the driver’s part. Members of Congress are attempting to allocate funding for research and development of the technology with an eye toward requiring it on all new vehicles to carry automatic detection systems five years from now.

As of now, the desired technology, which would be passive, work automatically and be virtually unnoticeable in the vehicle, is now mostly theoretical. As of now, the closest thing is a streamlined breathalyzer-like device that requires the driver to blow into it and cannot calculate the precise BAC. Rather, it can only detect the presence of alcohol.

Members of Congress have introduced the RIDE Act, i.e., Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone. It seeks to encourage the development of sensors that would monitor blood alcohol levels by breath and touch. Government-funded research into the technology is already taking place. The bill would allocate $10 million dollars for the research to continue.

The lawmakers’ goal is to make the technology mandatory on all new cars and trucks by 2024. In theory, this would do for first-offense DUI what ignition interlock devices have done for repeat offenses. Once the technology is ready, the government would install and test it on fleets of vehicles that it owns. The bill allocates another $25 million for that purpose.

Perhaps someday the vehicles Americans drive will be smart enough to prevent drunk driving on their own. In the meantime, those facing DUI charges may find it useful to contact an attorney.