New device may end drunk driving
A new technology is able to stop a car if the driver has alcohol in his or her blood--without requiring a blow test. Seems like a good idea to me, but I'm sure a lot of people will take issue with the idea. Is it too big brother-ish, or in this case does public safety trump civil liberty?
OTTAWA -- Emerging nanotechnology may put an end to a costly social problem that years of public awareness campaigns have not -- deaths caused by drinking and driving.
"Technology in itself, in time, could almost eliminate impaired driving," said Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada.
About 1,500 people a year die in Canada from alcohol-related accidents on roads, recreational vehicles and boats.
But what has MADD, governments and police forces excited about is a new generation of ignition interlocking devices, which prevent a car, and potentially all vehicles, from being started if the driver's blood-alcohol level is over a preset level.
A blue-ribbon panel in the U.S. -- which Transport Canada, MADD Canada and automakers are members of -- is considering having the interlocking devices installed in all new cars so that, if a driver is over the legal blood-alcohol level, the car won't start.
The group is studying various nanotechnologies, but one of them uses sensors embedded in the steering wheel or gear shift that can measure blood-alcohol levels through the skin -- much as an exercise machine can measure a heart rate.
A survey to be released by MADD and Transport Canada on Tuesday will show that close to 60 per cent of Canadians would support interlocking devices with nanotechnology in all Canadian cars. Murie expects those numbers to climb quickly once people see a prototype and understand it better. Both Nissan and Toyota are well on their way to being able to produce cars with the nanotechnology.
But Marlene Bourne, an emerging technologies expert from the U.S., says she expects it to provoke vigorous debate.
"I'm not sure about Canada, but I would think in the United States, somebody's going to make an argument that it's an invasion of privacy and you should be able to do whatever you want in your car," she said.
"And then you could get, on the other hand, the argument for simple public safety."
Paul Boase, a Transport Canada official, said the issue is not just about road safety, and agreed there needs to be political debate.