Accidents caused by impaired drivers claim far too many lives each year in North Carolina. Ignition interlock devices provide an effective way of preventing motorists who have consumed alcohol from operating motor vehicles, but they require drivers to submit breath samples and are considered too invasive to be fitted as standard equipment to new cars. Auto manufacturers are working on systems that can detect alcohol without breath samples, and Volvo says that it hopes to introduce such a system within five years.
It has been testing an impaired driving system that uses cameras to monitor motorists and watch for signs of intoxication. Types of driver behavior that could trigger the system include slower than normal reaction times, weaving between lanes, not watching the road for extended periods and not making needed steering corrections. When alcohol impairment is detected, Volvo says that its system will slow the vehicle down and park it safely.
Several other manufacturers are working on similar technology. Ford and Mercedes-Benz have already introduced camera-based systems that are designed to identify dangerous situations, and some Subaru vehicles are fitted with cameras that watch drivers for signs of distraction. Other safety systems deployed by manufacturers including Nissan, Tesla and Honda are programmed to brake and steer automatically in emergency situations when drivers do not react quickly enough.
The drunk driving system being developed by Volvo will likely store information on a hard drive under the hood. The data found on automobile black boxes can reveal what transpired in the seconds before a motor vehicle accident, and there are situations where it could be used by experienced personal injury attorneys to establish negligence in lawsuits filed on behalf of road users who are injured. This electronic evidence may be used when it shows that drivers exceeded posted speed limits, traveled too fast for prevailing road and traffic conditions or failed to take emergency action to prevent a crash.