In Washington state, when someone’s license is suspended or revoked for a drug or alcohol-related driving offense, he or she is sometimes given an Ignition Interlock License. These licenses allow such drivers to drive vehicles that have been equipped with ignition interlock devices, which do not allow the vehicle to start if it detects alcohol on the driver’s breath.

Seattle residents may be aware that the federal government is considering making similar technology mandatory in all cars–meaning each and every driver would be subject to such tests. Federally-funded research is currently taking place to determine whether it would be feasible to require all automakers to include alcohol blood level testing technology as standard equipment in new vehicles, as a measure to prevent car accidents.

While the rate of drunk driving has actually shown a bit of a decline across the nation, drunk drivers are still at fault for almost one-third of traffic deaths in the U.S. In fact, drunk drivers kill 11,000 people a year.

Researchers say that requiring each and every driver to prove they are under the legal blood alcohol limit each time they get behind the wheel would cut back on senseless and tragic car accidents. The technology would be less obtrusive than the clunky breath tests that those with Ignition Interlock Licenses deal with. Two of the technologies being tested include tissue spectrometry and distant spectrometry. The tissue spectrometry ignition interlock involves a touchpad that detects alcohol in human tissue; and the distant spectrometry includes a system of sensors throughout the cabin that read alcohol on the driver’s breath, and is smart enough to distinguish the breaths of the cabin’s different occupants.

Source: LA Times, “Should future cars curb drunk drivers?” Dan Turner, March 28, 2012