Despite all of the safety technology in cars these days, there’s still a staggering amount of alcohol-related accidents each year.
In 2013 alone, 10,000 people were killed in alcohol-related car accidents in the US, which equates to one death every 50 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA).
The government now wants to use technology to bring that number down.
The NHTSA is working with a slew of companies in the automobile industry to create an alcohol-detection technology that would measure a driver’s blood-alcohol content in about a second.
Late last week the NHTSA showed off two prototypes for bringing its system, dubbed the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), to life.
One of the models is a breath-based system that uses sensors in the car to measure the blood-alcohol level instantly while the driver breathes normally. And the other prototype is a touch-based system that detects the blood-alcohol level by shining an infrared-light through the fingertip to measure the alcohol levels under the skin.
Both alcohol detection systems would measure the alcohol in a driver’s blood in less than a second. If it is above .08, which is the legal limit in all 50 states, the vehicle will not move.
The program can also be programmed to prevent the car from moving if the driver is under 21 and has consumed any alcohol.
The first consumer-ready model of the technology is still about five years away — and unlike other safety technologies like back-up cameras, which the NHTSA made mandatory beginning in 2014, the alcohol-detection system would not be required by automakers.
Instead, the agency said it aims to make the system an affordable upgrade for vehicles. However, it’s likely the system could become standard for automakers over time.