Criminal Defense and Title IX
Attorneys Austin, TX

Push for Drunk Driving Prevention Tech in New Cars Gains Momentum

POV of a drunk driver at night, with motion blur and impaired vision while driving.

Technology has potential to detect impairment behind the wheel

In light of growing concerns about the impact of drunk driving on road safety, regulators are seeking to use technology to detect and prevent impaired driving.

In December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it had taken the first step toward making impaired-driving prevention technologies standard in new passenger vehicles. While we recognize and appreciate the safety rationale behind this initiative, we also have significant concerns about whether these technologies will accurately measure impairment and the potential for false positives. As experienced DWI defense attorneys, we've seen the consequences of false positives and overzealous enforcement many times.

Technological solutions to impaired driving have drawbacks

Several in-vehicle technologies are being considered as part of the NHTSA plan. One idea is to use breath- or touch-based sensors to detect alcohol, similar in concept to the ignition interlock devices that courts order convicted drunk drivers to install in their vehicles, although it's unlikely that anything as intrusive as IIDs will become standard. Another potential method is to use cameras to monitor eye movements to try to see if a driver is intoxicated.

These technological solutions are analogous to tools used by law enforcement to catch suspected drunk drivers, and they have many of the same drawbacks. Alcohol detection technologies like breathalyzers are notoriously unreliable if they are not properly calibrated, and the prospect of properly calibrating such a device in every car in America is daunting, to say the least. Likewise, eye movements are an unreliable indicator of intoxication, much like the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) field sobriety test.

Even NHTSA acknowledges the potential drawbacks of technical solutions, especially given the sheer number of drivers on American roads. “If it’s [only] 99.9% accurate, you could have a million false positives,” said Ann Carlson, the acting NHTSA administrator. “Those false positives could be somebody trying to get to the hospital for an emergency.”

NHTSA initiative highlights the need for experienced DWI defense counsel

While it's unlikely that DWI prevention technology will become standard on new cars anytime soon, this initiative by the NHTSA is a reminder of the high stakes in a DWI case.

The government and the public alike are highly motivated to crack down on drunk driving, and while there are valid safety reasons to do so, that's not much comfort for the individual defendant caught in a prosecutor's crosshairs. Unfortunately, it's far too common for law enforcement to cut corners and break the rules when enforcing DWI laws, and prosecutors get too many convictions based on flawed evidence and bad science. That's where we come in.

If you are facing DWI charges in Austin or any of the surrounding Central Texas communities, you need an experienced defense lawyer on your side right from the start. Give us a call or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation.

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