How to Stop Drunk Driving

Gizmodo is reporting that Toyota and Nissan are tossing around ideas for preventing people from driving under the influence.

They’ve had some dumb ideas so far it seems: requiring a long PIN to be entered before the car will start, or having breathalyzers come standard with the car.

Here’s my idea. I think it’s better than those.

Cars are already on the verge of driving themselves. We don’t quite trust them yet– I think they need a heckuva track record before people will be ready to relinquish control of 2,000 lb. machines traveling at 60 mph, even if the machines can do it safer on average– but they’re getting ever closer to being able to get us to and from without our intervention.

In the meantime, how about taking that auto-driving technology (ha, I made a pun) and using it to allow the car to recognize when you’re not driving safely? Surely there are quantifiable differences between reacting to an emergency (driving around an accident or screeching to a halt to avoid a deer) and driving under the influence (weaving slowly from side to side, slow reaction times to events).

Your car could notice when your driving is impaired– it doesn’t have to be from alcohol, it could be that you fell asleep (started to drift off to the side), or you could have taken some drugs (swerving to drive over the purple monkey-toads with the faces of M. Emmett Walsh). Whatever the reason, the car could notice your erratic behavior and gently slow to a stop while displaying some kind of message and automatically calling you a taxi.

That’s what they should do. And now that I’ve introduced the idea into the ether, look for that mandatory feature at a dealer near you sometime in 2008.



  1. Great! But maybe there should be an override breathalizer. I mean, just in case it read me wrong, or is likely to, based on the driving I plan to do.

    Oh, and there’s gonna be TONS of legal crap to read and sign. ‘Cause they’re going to have to say clearly: “Do not rely on the car to decide whether you’re too drunk to drive. It’s not designed to do that. It’s your responsibility to decide.”

    There will be people who say, “hey, if I were drunk, the car would stop me!”

    Also, this idea means that people have to actually get on the street and drive a bit before it kicks in.

  2. Oh sure, it’s not a perfect solution. But it seems less workaroundable than a breathalyzer or long PIN. Plus it would work for non-drunk impairment– too tired, on some other kind of drug, talking on the cell phone, etc.

    Maybe you’d have to have it installed only after you screw up, or parents could have them installed on their kids’ vehicles instead of a more intrusive and obvious governor. “You are probably drunk. I am slowing down and calling your father.”

  3. I would stop driving if I had to plug in a long PIN every time I started the car. Or, I say that now, but I’d probably still drive. But what a pain in the ass.

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