Updated: Thursday, 08 Jul 2010, 2:48 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 08 Jul 2010, 2:48 PM EDT
ALBANY, NY (WIVB) - Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, joined by anti-drunk driving law enforcement, victims of drunk driving incidents and advocates for increased road safety, pushed Schumer sponsored legislation to foster research and development of in-car technology to fight the scourge of drunk driving. Schumer’s legislation would create a consortium to drastically curb intoxicated driving by funding a partnership between anti-drunk driving advocates, large car companies and the federal government to design devices that prevent intoxicated people from ever turning on the car.
“One drunk driving accident can rip apart a family and change a community forever; it’s a problem that touches more lives every year and we need a fresh approach,” Schumer said. “This legislation gets to the heart of the problem by making sure that drinkers can’t even turn the ignition on in their car and pull out onto the road where they’re a danger.”
Schumer said that drunk driving kills thousands of people across the country every year and hundreds of people in New York – many of them teens – but only 2% of intoxicated drivers are caught. Schumer said that existing devices, such as ignition locks, are expensive and obtrusive and that future technology has to be unnoticeable, so that it doesn’t inconvenience a sober driver, and so that people can choose to install it in the car of a teen who is learning to drive or going off to college.
Standing at the North Tonawanda City Council Chambers, Schumer was joined by Ann Orszulak whose daughter was killed in a DWI accident that could have been prevented if she was not able to get behind the wheel. Since her daughter passed, Ann has fought hard to prevent other families from having to experience what she did by traveling around the region to address victims and discuss the dangers of intoxicated driving while partnering with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Schumer was also was joined by the Mayor of North Tonawanda Robert Ortt; Michael Violante, Niagara County District Attorney; Ted Brenner, Assistant Niagara County District Attorney; James Voutour, Niagara County Sheriff; Randy Szukala, North Tonawanda Chief of Police and Elizabeth Obad, President of Erie County MADD
The Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere (ROADS SAFE) Act, would authorize $12 million in annual funding for five years for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program to develop in-vehicle technology to prevent drunk driving. The funding would be provided through money that the federal government has already appropriated for road safety initiatives, therefore making the legislation revenue neutral and not adding to the deficit.
NHTSA and DADSS would use the funding to explore a variety of emerging technologies designed to reduce drunken driving crashes. Currently, some devices exist to stop drunk driving, but too often the devices can be manipulated to allow a drunk driver to get behind the wheel. The legislation would promote innovations that create a fail-safe device so that no drunk driver can start their car.
This new approach would bring together the government, non-profits and car companies to form a consortium. The consortium would be tasked with developing new technologies that would curb drunk driving in a way that protects Americans on the road and allows car manufacturers to produce high quality vehicles. Under the program, the technologies explored would include devices that determine a driver’s blood alcohol level by touching the steering wheel or engine start button, as well as sensors that passively monitor a driver’s breath or eye movements. If the sensors indicate that the driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit, the vehicle would not start- stopping a drunk driver before their vehicle gets on the road and endangers others.
Between 2004 and 2008 a total of 179 people were killed by intoxicated drivers in Western New York.