Monday, March 23, 2015

UM study: Alcohol detectors in all cars would cut impaired driving crash deaths 85 percent

Researchers at the University of Michigan Injury Center and the school's Transportation Research Institute studied the impact of installing alcohol ignition interlock devices in all newly purchased vehicles over a 15-year period. According to the March 19 UM news release, 85 percent of crash deaths attributable to alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes would be eliminated by the device.
The study authors conclude, “That would mean preventing more than 59,000 deaths. Another 1.25 million nonfatal injuries would also be prevented, as the nation would see a reduction of 84-89 percent. When it comes to dollars, all these lives saved and injuries prevented would save society $343 billion over 15 years. In fact, the cost of installing the devices would be recouped after just three years.”
This is the first study that models the impact of a universal policy installing alcohol interlocks on all new vehicles sold in the U.S. It was based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the National Automotive Sampling System's General Estimates System.
Though the injury prevention benefit was apparent for all ages, drivers who are closest to the legal drinking age would likely be the most significant beneficiaries of alcohol interlocks. Among drivers ages 21 to 29 years, about 481,000 deaths and injuries would be prevented, nearly 35 percent of total deaths and injuries for all age groups. Drivers under 21 who engaged in drinking while driving would also benefit substantially, with nearly 195,000 deaths and impaired driving ("drunk driving") injuries potentially prevented.
"It is often difficult to penetrate these age groups with effective public health interventions and policies to prevent drinking and driving," said lead author Patrick Carter, assistant professor at the medical school. "By capitalizing on recent technological advancements that make alcohol-detecting sensors seamless to the driver and applying such technology more broadly to all newly built vehicles, we can actually have a substantial injury prevention impact among traditionally hard-to-reach high-risk populations."
The research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the univeristy's Injury Center.
In 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended a passive alcohol detector for all cars (see related story). "Technology is the game-changer in reducing alcohol-related crashes on our nation's roadways," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, NTSB chairman, in a statement posted on the NTSB web site. "Achieving zero alcohol-impaired driving-related deaths is possible only if society is willing to separate the impaired driver from the driving task."
Critics worry that such systems have not yet been perfected and that they may not distinguish the driver's breath from that of a passenger, among other concerns.
The book, What the Early Worm Gets first made a call for this passive type of detection in 2010. “Some Americans will balk at this as an intrusion. If we, as a country, say preventing intoxicated driving deaths is a priority, mandating this safety equipment the way seatbelts and airbags are required is a no brainer. If we say 'hands off MY booze just test the bad guys,' drinking and driving deaths are no priority... 3/4 of impaired drivers who cause death or injury have no prior convictions.
“This is a put-up-or-shut-up moment for communities that claim keeping the streets free of impaired drivers is a prime concern. The only reason the detectors won't entirely eradicate mixing gasoline and alcohol is that the legal limit to which they'll be set is .08 BAC while motor skills, reaction time and judgment begin to be impaired at .02.”
(See entire article)

Visit for a replay of CBS Sports' Power Up Your Health featuring Scott Stevens.  Host Ed Forteau led a discussion on the health risks and myths of health benefits of drinking.  Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud also can be found on, plus an interview with Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international author from the UK, among his works is the Alzheimer's book "Time to Let Go."  Download the FREE Alcohology app in the Google PlayStore today.