Devices considered to prevent drunk driving

HOUSTON The idea is being pushed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the agency says it should be required in the vehicles of DUI offenders and be available in new cars if drivers want them.

It's not hard to find someone who has driven impaired in the past.

Driver Andrew Torrez admitted, "I have been in situations where I should not have been behind the wheel."

And it's not hard to find someone who has a family member with a history of drunk driving.

"They were forever hitting someone and having wrecks," recalled driver Frances Lemons.

For these drivers, having alcohol sensors in new cars sounds like a good idea.

"I see no problem with that," said Torrez. "It'll keep people like that off the road."

Lemons said, "I think that it should be mandatory."

The proposed sensors are not Breathalyzers. They are called ignition interlocks that would use passive devices on the steering wheel or a car's ventilation system to detect a person's alcohol level and then prevent the car from starting.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving wants congress to pass a bill that would provide $60 million to study, research and develop such devices. However, the organization says it should be up to consumers to decide whether the sensors are included in new cars.

Lori Stevens with MADD explained, "We do want them available for the public. Parents can use them for teenagers and they may have someone in their family that has a problem."

Right now anyone can have a Breathalyzer put in a car. The initial cost is about $100, but there is also a monthly fee associated with the current devices. "It runs about $60 to $80 to calibrate it monthly and rent the actual machine," Stevens said.

Since the new devices won't even be created for at least another five years, there is no telling how much consumers could pay. Not everyone thinks the sensors would be a good idea. This response was provided to us by the American Beverage Institute.

"These mandates are actually part of an incremental strategy to normalize ignition interlock technology so they can start working to put the technology in all cars as standard equipment," said Sarah Longwell with the American Beverage Institute.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving does want mandatory Breathalyzers for all convicted drunk drivers, but says the technology should be optional and as we said, it will be years before the passive devices could be ready for new cars.

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