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CT DOT tests new device that turns a steering wheel into a breathalyzer

A view of the steering column with the Alcohol Detection System for Safety breath sensor technology. An LED light bar flashes red or green indicating if a driver is impaired or not and can prevent drunk driving.
CTDOTMedia
A view of the steering column with the Alcohol Detection System for Safety breath sensor technology. An LED light bar flashes red or green indicating if a driver is impaired or not and can prevent drunk driving.

Connecticut is joining Virginia and Maryland in a federal program to test out new anti-drunk driving technology. A provision in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act requires the automotive industry to begin manufacturing vehicles with advanced anti-drunk driving technology in 2027.

The device is called Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). It is placed inside a vehicle's steering column and it can passively measure a driver's blood alcohol level through the person's breath. If an impaired person is detected in the driver’s seat, the vehicle won't start.

State Department of Transportation spokesperson Josh Morgan said the devices will be placed in six state vehicles to test the reliability of the system and make sure there are no false positives.

This advanced anti-DUI technology is an improvement over current technology, which is decades old, because the driver no longer needs to breathe into a tube, Morgan said.

“The only thing that makes the car look different, is an LED strip, which will flash red, if the driver is impaired, letting you know that the car is not starting, or is green, and the car starts,” he said.

The DOT is equipping one particular car to serve as a community outreach vehicle to demonstrate the technology to Connecticut residents.

This CTDOT vehicle will be at schools and public events to inform the public of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety technology. It has a custom “wrapping” to help get the word out that this technology can prevent drunk driving.
CTDOTMedia
This CTDOT vehicle will be at schools and public events to inform the public of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety technology. It has a custom “wrapping” to help get the word out that this technology can prevent drunk driving.

“It’s going to be at schools, at Yard Goats games, at UConn games, places where we can connect with students,” Morgan said.

He said the DOT wants to talk about the technology and the importance of driving sober at events where people are consuming alcohol.

Connecticut has consistently ranked in the top three-to-five states with the highest number of impaired driving fatalities each year.

Connecticut’s DOT will test the system for 12 months. The program is being paid for by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.

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