Revolutionary technology could soon stop all drunk drivers

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) – New technology in cars could stop anyone who is over the legal limit, from getting behind the wheel and driving drunk.

It’s revolutionary technology that Lynchburg resident Bridget Moore wishes was available sooner.

“This is when my vehicle had spun around and the axle was completely knocked off,” Moore said as she described pictures of the crash.

Bridget Moore was hit by a drunk driver in Lynchburg about two years ago.

“I guess I was just blessed to be alive because he tore my truck up,” Moore said.

According to court documents that driver has now pleaded guilty to three DWIs in the last five years.

“Is it going to take for him to kill someone for something to be done?” Moore said.

But how do you stop people like this?

Researchers in Sterling, Virginia say they have technology that would not just stop repeat offenders, but could possibly stop all drunk drivers. It’s a revolutionary technology and ABC 13 got an exclusive behind the scenes look.

“There are two systems that we are developing, one touch based and one breath based,” Robert Strassburger, President and CEO, Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.

Robert Strassburger oversees the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, also known as DADSS. We asked the question about how it tells the difference between the driver and someone who is in the backseat who may have had a few drinks.

“We certainly don’t want to discourage the use of a designated driver,” Strassburger said. “So we must assume there could be passengers in the car they may have been drinking and that is why we are looking at the CO2.

The CO2 levels confirm to the system that the air coming into the system is from a human. If the level is high, then the system will detect that is the driver.

“We also look at the proportion of CO2 with alcohol,” Strassburger said.

In other words, both levels would have to spike to confirm it’s the driver’s breath that the system is detecting and that the driver is over the legal limit. But this is just one system being tested. There’s also a touch system that uses infrared light

“They are shining the light into your finger, below the surface of your skin and then depending on how much light comes back we know if you have alcohol in your blood stream and how much if you do,” Strassburger said.

If you don’t pass the test of being under the legal limit, the car would start, but would not allow you to drive.

“The ultimate goal here with this technology, is one to commercialize it, to transfer it to auto makers so they can begin integrating it into vehicles just like any other safety option, like lane departure warning,” Strassburger said.

But before that can happen they are doing some testing and Virginia is the first state to start up a pilot program with human testers on the road.

“This is a public, private partnership through primarily the federal government and all vehicle manufacturers that do business in this country,” Strassburger said.

They hope to start the testing on human subjects in Virginia as early as June.

“We will have a paid driver who will drive a set route and there will be a paid passenger who will be drinking at certain intervals,” Strassburger said.

Eventually the technology would only be on the driver side. But just how expensive would all of this be?

“We don’t have a figure yet, but it will affordable,” Strassburger said.

Mothers against Drunk Driving in Virginia is one of the biggest promotors of this program.

“We hope for a day when no one is killed by drunk drivers, and this actually gives us the ability to get to that point,” Chris Konschak, spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Virginia said.

Now they want your feedback. DADSS will be traveling around the state with this technology trailer where you can actually test out some of the instruments yourself. Their next visit will be at the Martinsville Speedway in March. For more information, click here.