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THE FUTURE OF DUI IN CALIFORNIA

 

It’s 2019 and we are on the heels of the next decade in this young millennium, a decade that promises to bring technological changes worthy of a sci-fi novel. This will likely be the decade that sees a spectacular rise in artificial intelligence, including self-driving vehicles and law enforcement that takes the film “Minority Report” out of the realm of fiction (except for the precogs). The act of drunken driving and its consequences will never be the same.

While California’s recently enacted Ignition Interlock Device (IID) lawwill require most drivers arrested for DUI to install this device, which will not allow the driver to start the vehicle if alcohol is detected, we may soon see similar alcohol detection devices installed in vehicles as a matter of course.  The “Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety” (DADSS) research program is developing technology that will be installed in every new car sold. This technology is passive. That is, it will not require the driver to do anything (unlike the IID, which requires a driver to breathe into a device). The DADSS system will prevent a driver from driving the vehicle if the driver’s BAC is over 0.08% (or if in Utah, over 0.05%). The DADSS is a nationwide program funded by the government and the private sector, including the automotive industry.

How will the DADSS system work? Currently two technologies are being explored: a breath-based system and a touch system.

The breath system does not require the driver to do anything. The technology is so sophisticated it can accurately read the blood alcohol content (BAC)of the driver by simply capturing the driver’s normal breathing. Even a drunken passenger will not confuse the device; it only captures the driver’s breath….and that is without requiring the driver to breathe into anything. Pretty amazing.

The touch system is even more futuristic. The drivers BAC is measured by an infrared-light through the fingertip of the driver. This device will be integrated into the vehicle controls and will take multiple readings.

While the devices are still in the research phase, last year DADSS technology was employed in a commercial setting. James River Transportation installed the devices in a commercial fleet of Ford Flex vehicles and is testing the devices under regular driving conditions.

The auto manufacturer, Nissan, is also experimenting with its own alcohol detection devices. Not only are breath and touch sensors being developed, but also facial monitoring and sensors that measure how safely the vehicle is being operated.

True, these efforts are aimed at getting drunk drivers off the road and that is a good thing. But with every step towards increased safety, there are risks of too much regulation. For example, (and this is simply a thought experiment) what if a government decided that zero-tolerance was the only acceptable law? These devices could prevent anyone from driving if they have any amount of alcohol in their system. This would not be too far away from prohibition and might create an epidemic of lone drinking at home.

But another technology stands to obviate this concern: autonomous (self-driving) vehicles. There is no doubt that autonomous vehicles will be on the road in the next decade. How prevalent they will be and how expensive it will be to operate them remains to be seen. Yet, these vehicles seem to be the most promising technology for preventing—and hopefully, eliminating—drunken drivers on the road.

But until this future arrives, if you have been arrested for DUI, Attorney William Weinberg can help. He has defended those accused of driving under the influence in Orange County for 25 years and offers a free consultation. You may contacthim at 949-474-8008 or by email at bill@williamweinberg.com.

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