While we have made great progress over the years in reducing drunk driving, this deadly behavior remains one of the leading causes of death and injury on our nation's roadways. In fact drunk driving is responsible for one in every three roadway fatalities. But every one of these deaths is preventable.
That’s why I'm pleased to hear that the national research effort to develop new technology that will prevent the illegal operation of a vehicle by a drunk driver is entering a new phase. In two years, research will move out of the laboratory and onto the road, when a drivable test vehicle is expected to be ready.
This research program, known as Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), began in 2008 and is a five-year, $10 million cooperative research effort of DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), representing the nation's leading automakers.
In January, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and I had the opportunity to take a first look at this technology at the DADSS laboratory in the Boston area.
We can use enforcement efforts to get drunk drivers off the road, but advanced alcohol-detection technologies like DADSS may someday be able to prevent drunk drivers and repeat offenders from getting behind the wheel in the first place.
And one person who knows all too well the heartbreak of loving a loved one to a drunk driver is MADD National President Jan Withers, who joined MADD in 1992 after her 15-year-old daughter, Alisa Joy, was killed by one. As Jan says, “there has been great progress in reducing drunk driving deaths and injuries over the past 30 years, but there were still nearly 11,000 such fatalities in 2009, nearly one-third of the traffic toll. DADSS has the potential to prevent an estimated 8,000 drunk driving deaths a year.”
At DOT, we’re deeply concerned about drunk drivers and the safety risk they impose on all motorists. We have made great progress in improving the safety of America’s roads, but we can make them safer, and advanced alcohol-detection technologies like DADSS are an important tool in helping achieve this mission.
And remember, no matter what the future holds for advanced alcohol-detection technologies, no technology can, or should, ever replace a driver's personal responsibility not to drive drunk.