MDOT MVA will test sensor system with potential to reduce drunk driving fatalities
News Release, Maryland Department of Transportation
OCEAN CITY, Md. (August 15, 2019) – Governor Larry Hogan joined the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) officials Thursday in launching Driven to Protect, a public-private partnership between the state and proponents of a new breath alcohol detection system that could help keep impaired drivers off the road.
The governor attended a demonstration of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety along with MDOT Secretary Pete K. Rahn and Administrator Chrissy Nizer of MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) at the Maryland Association of Counties Summer Conference in Ocean City.
“Maryland is at the forefront of the national effort to stop the increasingly dangerous trend of impaired driving,” said Governor Hogan. “We’ve enacted legislation to help protect people on our highways by keeping impaired drivers off the road. This driver alcohol detection system could be an important next step, using technology to provide life-saving information to drivers.”
The MDOT MVA pilot program will test this lifesaving technology, which the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says could help reduce drunk driving fatalities by as much as 60 percent. The pilot is critical to help move the technology forward toward potential deployment in new vehicles.
“Safety is our number one priority and this partnership is an example of Maryland’s leadership in implementing innovative ideas to help reach our goal of zero fatalities,” said MDOT Secretary Rahn.
The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety works by measuring the level of alcohol on a driver’s naturally exhaled breath. Small sensors built inside vehicle panels analyze breath molecules using infrared light. If the driver’s breath alcohol level is above a certain range, the car won’t start. The sensor is programmable, from a zero-tolerance policy for teen drivers to a breath alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, the legal limit.
The technology will be installed in eight MDOT MVA vehicles, including a demonstration vehicle that will be used for awareness and education at safety and community events. Over the course of a year, the agency will test how the devices will hold up to everyday wear and tear, changes in weather and other elements.
“Approximately one-third of the fatalities on Maryland roadways each year are a result of someone driving while they are impaired,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Nizer. “This pilot program will provide critical insight for manufacturers to integrate this technology as an option on future vehicles to keep us all safer.”
The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety research program involves the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, which represents the world’s leading automakers, as well as the NHTSA and MDOT. Learn more about the Driven to Protect initiative at driventoprotectmd.org.