RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia DMV, along with several partners, announced the expansion of real-world testing of a device that can detect if a driver has been drinking just by them getting in the vehicle.
Known as “DADSS,” or Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, the device can test a person's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) by their normal breathing. Traditional breathalyzers require the user to blow air into a device.
The results from the DADSS device come back almost instantaneously, and if the driver is over the legal limit, it prevents the vehicle from moving forward.
The Virginia DMV announced Wednesday that the Schneider company would become the first major trucking company to deploy the devices in several of their vehicles to help provide further data for testing.
Officials said the devices can help prevent many of the thousands of crashes and deaths on Virginia roadways and nationwide. An estimated 10,000 roadway deaths are alcohol-related in the U.S. each year.
“According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, equipping all vehicles with such an alcohol detection system could prevent more than a quarter of the fatalities on U.S. highways,” said Rick Holcombe, Virginia DMV Commissioner.
The testing of the devices is expanding because the original pilot took place in the River City. In 2018, James River Transportation installed the devices on four of their vehicles, according to Stephen Story, the company’s president.
“Our drivers had said, ‘Do you really suspect we have a drinking problem? I said of course not if I suspected that I would have never volunteered for this,” Story said.
Although numbers for drunk driving incidents related to commercial drivers are not widely tracked, Story said the devices might work well for certain types of fleet owners.
“Let’s say a plumbing company, they never see their drivers. The plumbing vehicle comes home with them. Those fleets that don’t interact with their management on a regular basis, I think that provides a huge benefit,” Story said.
The DADSS device is not commercially available just yet. The hope from developers is the technology will eventually be incorporated into personal vehicles, like collision avoidance technology in recent years. Still, individuals would have to choose to install them on their own.
“The masses do agree, you shouldn’t drive while impaired,” said Emily Curtis, with Students Against Destructive Decisions. “Having that technology in place to just prevent you from making that destructive decision right upfront. Will be a really great thing, a helpful tool.”
For more information about the Driven to Protect Initiative in Virginia, visit their website.