Is Drunk Driving Just a 20th Century Problem?

drunk-driving-technology-robotThree major reports about the state of drunk driving in America have come out already this year. And what’s surprising is that they all are placing a lot of faith in technology as the answer to this persistent menace.

The reports were from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the National Academies for Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. In all of them anti-drunk driving technology figured prominently as a way of taking the choice to drink and drive away from the motorist. Let’s look at some of the conclusions:

Advocates: Laws and Technology Together

In their 2018 Roadmap, a report on the state of impaired driving in America, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety put their recommendation up front: “Safest Route: Proven Safety Laws + Advanced Vehicle Technologies.”

In terms of specific technologies, Advocates notes that “ignition interlock devices (IIDs) have been extremely effective in preventing attempts to drive while impaired.” The full stable of safety tech includes:

  • Ignition interlocks
  • Crash avoidance technologies (automatic braking and lane departure warning)
  • Rear seat belt reminders
  • Driverless cars in the long run

MADD: Steadfast Support for Interlock Techology

MADD is also a supporter of anti-DUI technology. The organization has for years campaigned for ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk driving offenders. In their recent Report to the Nation they reiterate their support for the devices. They also approve of DADSS and, eventually, driverless cars.

National Academies: The Evidence Supports Interlocks

In Getting to Zero, their recent report on drunk driving, The National Academies lists ignition interlocks as the only evidence-based drunk driving technology choice. They consider other methods such as autonomous vehicles worthy of scrutiny as well. Interlocks, however, are the technology of today, and are working today to save lives.

Eighteen years into the 21st Century, drunk driving does not seem to be going away. Yet in that time ignition interlock technology has helped bring down the number of repeat offenders, and as more states adopt stronger ignition interlock laws those numbers will decline.

Perhaps autonomous cars will eventually make drivers obsolete, in which case drunk driving will be a bad memory. But that is a long way off: even if a self-driving car was perfected today, it would take a generation to ready the roads and get people to give up their driving.

And just as Americans are not ready to give up driving, they seem unwilling to give up drunk driving. Until the Big Technological Change happens, it’s up to states to use the anti drunk driving technology that works now –ignition interlocks – to keep offenders from making the same bad choice twice.