With these staggering statistics in mind, I issued a challenge to the auto industry — manufacturers and suppliers — at a recent congressional hearing to accelerate the development of vehicle technology that would prevent a drunken driver from operating a vehicle and to make this technology available to consumers as soon as possible.
Another statistic drives this challenge: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has estimated that a drunken driver prevention system could save an estimated 7,000 lives a year when fully implemented.
For over 10 years, a group representing the auto industry has been working on an advanced passive system to prevent drunken drivers from operating their vehicles. The program is known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. To date, I have been told, the program is pursuing both a touch-based system and a breath-based system to detect the driver's blood-alcohol content. If the blood-alcohol content is over 0.08 percent, the car would be inoperable.
The president of the industry group overseeing the program has indicated that a breath-based system could be available for fleets by the end of 2020. I am told that test vehicles are in use now in Virginia. He has indicated that a touch-based system could be available in the future.
The time is now to accelerate this program. The majority of its funding has come from federal and state sources. Federal funding expires next year, and we believe that would be the appropriate time for experts in the auto industry to take over the research and development of the program, which is necessary to bring an effective, life-saving drunken driving prevention system to market.
On behalf of the victims of drunken driving and all the supporters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, I respectfully urge the auto industry to unleash its engineering talent and resources on this endeavor to save thousands of lives a year. The resulting technology may be one of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety endeavors. It also could be another system.
Recently, Volvo announced a system that uses cameras and sensors to detect impairment. We applaud its efforts and believe that other manufacturers have similar methods and capabilities within their high-tech labs and facilities.
We are witnessing a revolution in automotive technology. The country is fascinated by the promise of autonomous vehicles and the technologies that will save lives along the road to a driverless future. Drunken driving prevention technologies can save lives now.
We are confident in the automotive industry's ability to fully develop, deploy and commercialize a drunken driving prevention technology. Such a technology will help to put the nation on the path to no more victims of drunken driving.