New technology to Stop DUI

In the ongoing battle to stop intoxicated drivers Mothers Against Drunk Driving recently showcased some new technologies that are helping with the fight. Rod Rice reports that innovations to ignition interlock systems make them very difficult to fool.

An ignition interlock is about the size of a cell phone. It's connected to a vehicles ignition system and prevents it from starting if the devise detects alcohol on the driver's breath. Some tried to get around that by using a balloon filed with a non drinker's breath. That dodge has been eliminated, says Stuart Sendelbach, with the latest devices from a company called Smart Start. In addition to blowing the devise needs to hear a sound.

"Get ya a good breath of air (he blows into the devise and makes a humming sound) and when you hear the three high pitched tones at the end it means you've completed the test successfully."

Then there was getting someone else to blow into it, but Sendelbach says that option has also been eliminated with the addition of a camera mounted on the windshield.

"The camera takes a photograph every time you blow into the devise."

Periodically while enroute the Smart Start will alert the driver that other tests are required, pictures are taken and all the data is stored within the system.  Once a month the driver has to pay the monthly leasing fee and have all the data and images downloaded.

"At that time that gets sent electronically up to or corporate office in Dallas and from there they distributed it the monitoring authority whether it's the judge, the probation officer or DPS."

MADD would like to see ignition interlocks required for all convicted drunk drivers. More importantly, it would like to stop drunk driving before it starts.  That's where another new technology is helping authorities to demonstrate just how out of control alcohol can make you behind the wheel. This one's called SIDNE.

"SIDNE is an acronym for simulated impaired driving experience."

That's Harris County Deputy Sam Cerda. He's got a handheld unit that can override the acceleration and braking of a go-cart as it's driven around an oval course framed by orange cones. Cerda says once the driver is comfortable on the course...

"We will flip the impaired switch and watch them over steer or under steer and usually 99% of the time they will crash it and they will be laughing while they're doing it."

That's what happened to Sandy Olsen from Houston as she gave SIDNE a whirl.

"Actually it was very interesting because it does give a sense of loss of control while still think that I was in control."

Deputy Cerda says SIDNE is taken to schools to allow young drivers to know what it feels like to discover too late their vehicle is out of control.  He hopes it's enough so that they never need an ignition interlock system.



*This video was created by the Florida State MADD affiliate. MADD supports mandatory installation of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers in all 50 states. Interlocks prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has measurable alcohol (set to a predetermined level) in their system.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...