KSNT News Special Report: Curbing Drunk Driving

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Stopping drunk drivers could soon be a problem police no longer have to worry about. It would all be up to your car.

Imagine living in a world where drunk driving was practically non-existent. Where cars could stop a driver before they ever even put the car in drive. Twenty years ago, that may have sounded impossible.

Now, we’re just a few years from this being a reality. KSNT News’ Brooke Lennington found out how new technology could soon eliminate drunk driving for good.

Just off Tuttle Creek Boulevard in Manhattan, there’s a cross. That marks the spot where a 6-year-old girl named Madie took her last breath.

“I didn’t ever think about it,” said Joel Garver. “I didn’t drive drunk, so why am I worried about it. But then my goddaughter gets killed and it’s because of a drunk driver.”

It happened in October 2015. The drunk driver that killed her… her dad.

“When it’s something that could be prevented like that, it’s even harder to grasp and handle.”

It’s a tragic story we’ve all become too familiar with. In fact, nearly than 10,000 Americans die each year because of drunk driving.

But it soon will become a thing of the past.

Inside a laboratory near Boston, they have developed two different kinds of technology that will measure the alcohol in a driver’s blood in less than a second.

The first is a breath-based system that will be located above the steering wheel, in the door trim, or even in the visor area.

Drivers won’t be able to detect where the sensor is; the driver will just be breathing normally and the sensor will detect and calculate the alcohol concentration.

The second type of technology features a touch-based system built into a car’s ignition button or gearshift.

It uses tiny lasers to shine a beam of light onto your finger and that special light reads the alcohol level below your skin’s surface.

It will be available in new cars, but not for another 5 to 8 years.

Researchers say it’s worth the wait.

“This is the single best opportunity to save lives from drunk driving,” said DADSS Program Manager Dr. Bud Zaouk.

Though not everyone’s sold, this new technology is the cure to ending drunk driving.

Mark Tunstall owns Advantage Ignition Interlock. He works with people who get DUIs.

“I think it would be safer, but I don’t see a lot of people going out and spending $60,000 on a brand new car,” Mark Tunstall said.

An ignition interlock system is a device that is installed in their cars. It makes a driver blow every time they get in. If the driver who blows over the legal limit, their car won’t start.

It’s only temporary, but it’s not just limited to those who get DUIs.

For a monthly fee around $80, any driver can voluntarily have it installed in their car.

“You can keep it on as long as you want. Whenever you want it taken off, we can take it off.”

It’s an option available now or to use in the meantime until the newer technology comes out.

Take it from Garver: Not doing anything can lead to a lot of regret.

“It’s one of those things that, it’s not a big deal to you until something happens and that’s sad. I should of cared about it more.”

To be truly effective and really save lives, researchers say the new technology coming out in a few years will need to be installed in all cars and trucks, not just a few of them.

As for cost, they estimate is somewhere between $300 to $500 per vehicle.

KSNT News would love to know what you think.

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December 31 2021 11:59 pm