New technology in the works to stop drunk driving - | WBTV Charlotte

New technology in the works to stop drunk driving

CHARLOTTE, NC (CBS NEWS/WBTV) - Local authorities were out in big numbers over the holidays to curb drunk, driving, and according to CBS News, a new piece of technology is in the works to stop it completely.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were nearly 10,000 deaths from drunk driving in the U.S. in 2011, down 2.5 percent from the year before.

Yamonti Chambers lost his fiancé and future mother-in-law in a car crash in Matthews on December 27th. Jennifer Hunt, 37, and Marie Crook, 62, died instantly, after police say an SUV driven by Justin Jones, 28, hit them.

"It was like a ton of bricks hit me," Chambers said.

Jones is set to appear before a judge Wednesday morning. The CBS Evening news ran a story Monday night, featuring new technology that could help save thousands of lives a year.

"One is breath-based and the other is touch-based. The idea is to develop a sensor that could detect if anyone is above the legal limit of .08 and prevent them from moving the vehicle and driving," Bud Zaouk, a project developer, said.

With the touch-based detector, "you press the start button and it starts the vehicle. And it will be a small infrared light that shines inside the finger," Bud said.

The infra-red light looks for alcohol in the finger's tissue.

"Alcohol has its own unique optical signature," Bud said, and if the optical signature registers above .08, "then the vehicle prevents you from moving."

The sensor in the breath-based approach is located around the steering wheel.

"That infra-red light excited the molecules and allows you to find out how much alcohol you have in the breath. It's non-contact, non-invasive," Bud said.

The $10 million funding for Bud Zaouk's project is split between 16 car makers and the federal government.

However, it's opposed by the American Beverage Institute, which represents 8,000 chain restaurants in the U.S.

The group made the following statement: "Drunk driving fatalities are at historically low levels. We shouldn't try to solve what's left of the drunk driving problem by targeting all Americans with alcohol sensing technology."

Bud Zaouk said the technology still needs work.

"I think at this stage we are probably looking at eight to 10 years, when you would start seeing it inside vehicles," Bud said.

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