With frightening statistics such as:
- Every 90 seconds, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash;
- In 2010, 10,228 people died in drunk driving crashes – one every
52 minutes – and 345,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes;
- Drunk driving costs each adult in this country almost $500 per year; and
- One in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime,
It is undeniable that the offense of
Driving While Intoxicated is a serious problem in our nation. And, it is because of this nationwide
problem that scientists and researchers are working to find a solution
in order to keep more people safe while behind the wheel.
Currently, researchers are working on touch and breath-based sensors that
can be placed in vehicles that instantly measure drivers' BAC levels.
These sensors plan to be placed strategically on steering wheels and/or
ignition buttons to ensure sensor-driver contact in order to analyze whether
the driver is fit to drive. If the driver's BAC is at or above the
legal limit .08, the vehicle will turn on as if working normally, but
because of the sensor's detection of an impaired driver, the vehicle
will not move.
A commendable and genius idea to keep drivers safe while on the road – yes.
A possible problem in the realm of criminal law – yes.
What are the possible criminal problems, you ask? Well, the offense of
DWI requires that 1) a person, 2) operates a motor vehicle, 3) in a public
place, 4) while intoxicated. [PC Sec. 49.04]. It has been an issue within
Texas as to what "operating" a motor vehicle means, and there
are instances where criminal defendants have been convicted of driving
while intoxicated when they in fact were not driving.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determined that a person "operates"
a vehicle when the "totality of the circumstances demonstrates that
the defendant took action to affect the functioning of his vehicle in
a manner that would enable the vehicle's use." So, even though
the vehicle is unable to move if it has sensed the driver's BAC is
at or above a .08, it could possibly be found that a driver still took
the necessary steps to operate the vehicle.
Also, although the sensors would keep drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher
off the road, it would allow the drivers who have lost his/her normal
use of mental or physical faculties to continue to roam the streets. Not
only would the sensors fail to distinguish between different types of
intoxication, but it could also allow for a defense to a driver whose
sensors allowed his car to move from a standstill.
It is predicted that the Driver Alcohol Detection System for safety [DADSS]
will be in a research vehicle by the end of 2013, and if all goes as planned,
the sensors will be on the road within the next decade. Everyone wants
our streets to be a safer place, and with the addition of touch and breath-based
sensors in our vehicles, it is possible that we will achieve just that.
But, with new technology comes new laws, and we as a society will have to adapt.
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