Near the end of 2019, Oklahoma legislators passed the Impaired Driver Accountability Program, which included expanded use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs). These are essentially portable breathalyzer tests for your vehicle that don’t allow the car to start unless the driver passes a breath-alcohol test.

There are some definite upsides to the use of IIDs, even for those convicted of drunk driving. The main benefit is that you can retain your driving privileges while ensuring that you don’t reoffend. But there are some definite disadvantages as well, including the costs of installation, calibration and monitoring. Also, it can be embarrassing to have other people stare as you blow into an IID in a parking lot or on the side of the road. It would be great if there was a solution that achieved the goals of IIDs without the costs and embarrassment.

Such a solution already seems to be in development, though it likely won’t be in widespread use anytime soon. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently reported on efforts by certain automakers to include alcohol-detection systems in their vehicles. Just one example is the system being developed by Volvo, which is a “passive alcohol sensor.” It measures blood-alcohol concentration by testing the ambient air in the cab of the vehicle. That means there is no device to blow into – the testing equipment is built into the car and just measures exhaled breath.

If they became standard in all new vehicles, systems like the one mentioned above could save an estimated 9,000 lives per year in the United States, according to the report. Moreover, they could all but eliminate DUI arrests in time. And because every driver would be tested – not just those with a DUI conviction on their record – there would be no embarrassment or extra costs imposed on select drivers. The devices would presumably be built into the cost of the vehicle.

Of course, this technology might become obsolete if fully automated (self-driving) cars become a reality before alcohol-detection systems do. But in either case, the criminal and safety problems of DUI would be solved or largely reduced.

None of this technology is significantly on the market yet, and it will be many years before such tech could become standard. Until then, anyone charged with DUI will need the help and advocacy of an experienced criminal defense attorney.