Driving Under the Influence: Technology Innovation that’s helping to reduce Tragedy

Driving under the influence is a serious problem around the world. In the United States, a person is killed every 48 minutes, taking away a total of more than 10,511 lives each year.

Driving under the influence is a serious problem around the world. In the United States, a person is killed every 48 minutes, taking away a total of more than 10,511 lives each year.

Even though these statistics are horrifying, they’re certainly better than they were 30 years ago. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drink-driving fatalities have decreased by one-third during that time period.

This improvement is largely attributable to the spread of information and education, but technology has also played a key role: Cars have become smarter, phone apps have made it easier to call a taxi, and police officers have better detection equipment such as breath testers and speed guns.

Here are some of the most recent advances to tackle driving under the influence:

New Intoxilyzer 9000

Intoxilyzer 9000 1

(Image source: kdvr.com)

Every year, thousands of people are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), with most of them being asked to blow into a breath test device to see how impaired they might be. 

Police officers have been using the Intoxilyzer 8000 for a long time, but the newest model on the market promises to be more efficient and save officers time. 

The device uses the concept that alcohol molecules absorb light energy at specific wavelengths to measure ethyl alcohol concentration in a breath sample, and the new model includes innovations such as a touch screen instead of a keyboard, making it easier to use. 

The Maui Police Department recently purchased six new Intoxilyzer 9000 devices, hoping to spend more time enforcing DUIs and less time documenting the arrest. With some Maui PD forms incorporated into the software, the device is able to generate reports that are currently typed by officers. 

 “We always strive to have the most updated technology possible for our officers and our community,” said DUI Task Force Sgt. Nick Krau. “It will allow us to get our officers back on the road faster.”

Facial recognition 

Police Car China

Facial recognition is not new in China’s police force, but the latest innovation is to use it to catch drunk drivers. In 2018 a total of 17,264 Chinese drivers were banned from driving for life: 5,149 of them were caught drunk driving in serious traffic accidents.

Traffic police in Jilin province are developing high definition facial recognition surveillance cameras that can identify physical characteristics displayed by a drunk person, such as facial expressions, nodding and yawning.

‘High-definition facial recognition surveillance cameras will be able to figure out whether the driver has consumed alcohol from their facial features,’ Reported Xinhua News Agency. 

How does it work? Once the camera identifies a possible drunk driver, the images will be sent to patrolling officers,who can then intercept the vehicle for further investigation.

Breathalyzer for Marijuana

Hound Labs 1

Marijuana laws have been changing at a rapid pace across the US. In recent news, starting this New Year’s day, the use of recreational marijuana will become legal in Illinois.

It is therefore understandable that police officers are worried about the lack of measures for catching drivers under the influence of marijuana, with its effects being less predictable than alcohol. In fact, since cannabis was made legal in Colorado just 6 years ago, it’s been reported that traffic-related deaths caused by the drug have increased by 48%.

This sentiment is echoed by Alameda County Sheriff spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly: “What we’ve seen trending with the addition of the legalization of cannabis in California is that we are coming across more and more marijuana-impaired drivers.”

Nowadays, Law enforcement officers use a breathalyzer to determine if someone’s blood alcohol content is over the legal limit, but, how can they measure marihuana?

“With alcohol, if you have over 0.08% in your blood, there’s the presumption that you’re intoxicated,’ Christopher Leusner, head of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. ‘There hasn’t been a blood test or a breath test that can determine if you’re impaired by marijuana.’

However, a new portable breathalyzer device, developed by Hound Labs, will hit the markets in 2020 and will be many times more sensitive than the current alcohol breathalyzers, detecting both alcohol and marijuana.

After five years of development, the gadget can now differentiate between recent consumption and weeks-old consumption, also being affordable to many law enforcement agencies with an estimated price tag of $5,000 USD each.  The detection of recent consumption carries significance due to the belief that marijuana use within 3 hours causes the highest impairment.

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