In 2021, U.S. Congress passed the HALT/RIDE Act, which mandates all new cars come standard with drunk driving prevention technology. The legislation provides a five-year period for identifying appropriate technology and integrating it into the designs. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, requiring such technology would prevent more than 9,400 deaths annually. A few technologies already exist that prevent driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other drugs and some don’t require installation on a vehicle.

Driving While Impaired

DUI Prevention Technologies

Courts sometimes mandate that individuals convicted of DUI use a driver monitoring system, such as a breathalyzer installed in their vehicle. The driver must pass the breathalyzer test before the car will start. Let’s consider the four most common device types that automakers could use.

Breath Detecting Systems

The most typical of the alcohol detection systems detects the breath of the driver. They blow into a tube that measures the alcohol in their system. This breathalyzer system connects to the vehicle’s starter, so the car won’t start if the driver fails the breathalyzer test. These systems require periodic inputs while the driver operates the vehicle, but a failed test while in motion does not disable the automobile.

Sensor Interlock Devices

Other similar devices use a sensor that the driver touches which uses an infrared light to measure the driver’s blood alcohol level. These less intrusive systems work as effectively as the breathalyzer. A Mothers Against Drunk Drivers report states this type of interlock device stopped two million drivers from driving drunk between the years 2006 and 2017.

Eye Movement Camera Monitors

Cameras that monitor eye movement can detect all types of impairment, not just alcohol. This makes them useful for detecting those driving impaired by drug use. The camera monitor systems, however, can’t tell the difference between illegal drug use and eye movement caused by appropriate prescription drug use.

Driver Assistance Systems

The driver assistance systems common on most vehicles now also help stop drunk driving accidents. Technologies like lane departure warning and collision assist automatically brake the vehicle, taking over for the driver. Most new cars come standard with these assistance features, but if a driver purchases a vehicle that doesn’t they can add them using a safety package.

Technology That Doesn’t Require Auto Integration

Consumer use of taxis, Lyft, Uber, and other ride-sharing options also lowers drunk driving deaths. The innovation of ride-sharing apps lets an individual use an app on their mobile phone to find a ride without revealing their inebriation to a family member or friend. This option provides protection from drivers under the influence of medication, such as anesthesia, which Verywell Health states a person should not drive for 24 to 48 hours after undergoing it.

Before the Tech Updates Occur

Drivers can stop drunk driving accidents before these or other technologies reach vehicles by making better choices. Drivers can choose to not drive if they have had even one drink. This choice alleviates the need to learn the legal complexities of various states, such as whether police had “reasonable suspicion” to charge a person with DUI, a requirement in Maryland.

Bringing It All Together

While technology can reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road, it can’t solve all accident-related issues. For example, according to Value Penguin, 13% of U.S. drivers don’t carry the legally required auto insurance. That’s why insurance agents recommend adding uninsured motorist insurance to auto policy packages. That way, if a drunk driving accident does occur and the other driver doesn’t carry insurance, your own coverage pays for your medical costs.