NEW DELHI (TIP): Struggling to put a check on drunken driving, one of the three main reasons of road deaths, the US has fast tracked its plan to introduce an advanced technology in vehicles that can detect if the driver is in a drunken state. US Highway Traffic Safety Administration (USHTSA) chief David L Strickland said alcohol consumption could be detected as soon the driver touches the steering or takes breath inside and the vehicle won’t start. He added the technology can be adopted by automobile manufacturers in different countries including India to reduce cases of drunk driving.
In India, drunk driving claimed 7,835 lives in 2012 in comparison to 10,553 in 2011. But in the US, it’s the other way round. Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6% in 2012, taking 10,322 lives compared to 9,865 in 2011. USHTSA report says that majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher — nearly double the legal limit. “We have already spent five years in research and two prototypes are out. Large scale rollout will happen in the next five years. Now we are asking the vehicle manufacturers to provide this as a feature in their vehicles. But the cost is high. We are working out how prices of these technologies in vehicles and devices come cheap,” Strickland told TOI.
He is in Delhi to attend UN Europe-Asia road safety forum meeting at Institute of Road Traffic Education. The USHTSA administrator said technology intervention is the only way out to bring in behavioural change among road users. Like in India, drivers’ fault is responsible for around 80% traffic crashes, in United States 90% such accidents are due to “human error”. Strickland said, “Technology intervention is the only way out to bring in change in behaviour of drivers and to make vehicles safer. Our focus is also on to have a technology to avoid collusion even if a driver fails to apply brake,” he added.
Strickland also said that drivers and co-passengers not wearing seatbelt is also a big problem in US as it is in the case of India. There is no specific data on how many lives could have been saved in India if there was 100% seat belt wearing compliance. But the USHTSA report that in nighttime crashes in 2012, almost two-thirds of the people who died were unrestrained.