Online Program

Steering Clear of Drunk Driving

Monday, November 2, 2015


In the US in 2011, 9,878 people died in motor vehicle crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol, representing nearly one-third of all highway fatalities. Drunk driving costs were estimated to be $130 billion in 2006. Passive alcohol sensing technologies that would prevent drivers under the influence of alcohol from operating a car are being developed through a public-private partnership, and hold promise for preventing deaths and injuries. However, the partnership is taking a voluntary, market-based approach to the implementation of their technology, whereas other countries have proven that a mandatory approach is more effective in gaining necessary consumer buy-in. This paper finds that a regulatory approach to mandating updated drunk driving technology is necessary to save lives and money.


We reviewed literature about alcohol sensing technologies and policies to promote their development and implementation. Additionally, we interviewed a select number of US experts.


Ignition interlocks are the main form of alcohol sensing technology, but the most promising alcohol technology development is passive sensing technology. Lessons from other countries prove that a regulatory, not market-based approach should be used to maximize the potential benefits of this alcohol sensing technology.  If implemented on a large scale, the technology could save nearly 7,000 lives per year.


Through a market-based approach, the partnership should accomplish one step in the regulatory process – consumer acceptance. However, this will not suffice to eventually reach regulation, which should be the end goal. Technological affordability and a political strategy are also necessary.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate the potential for a public-private partnership to prevent drunk driving through passive alcohol sensing technology. Describe the success of other countries that have proven that a mandatory approach is more effective in gaining necessary consumer buy-in. Discuss how policy is being used to promote currently available alcohol sensing technologies. Identify the most promising alcohol sensing technologies in development. Explain how policy can be used to maximize the potential benefits of alcohol sensing technology that is being developed.

Keyword(s): Transportation, Alcohol Use