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Technology may help cut drunk driving

Indiana saw a dramatic reduction in the number of fatalities involving impaired drivers between 2015 and 2016, the latest figures available. The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute’s latest annual reportfound 80 fatalities in 2016, down from 178 the previous year.

Eighty deaths, of course, is too many. But new technology being tested in Virginia could cut the number of drunken-driving related deaths even more.

The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety is a small vent-like device affixed to the dashboard.

But unlike engine interlocksystems requiring the driver to exhale into a device to start the car, the new technology automatically measures the driver’s blood alcohol level.

If it’s above the 0.08 legal limit, the car will start but the driver will be unable to move it.

With the ignition started, the driver canchargea phone, if necessary, to call a cab, ride-sharing service or sober friend.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a partner in developing the device, along with more than a dozen auto manufacturers. The hopeis that the device will one day be among the options available when buying a new car,aslane sensors and parking guidance systems have become.

Bud Zaouk of KEA Technologies told a Washington, D.C., area radio station that he doesn’t believe drinkers will be the only customers. “We see that our first adopters are going to be parents with teen drivers,” Zaouk said. “This is a fantastic opportunity for Virginia; this is going to help save lives in the state, and I am hoping others will follow suit.”