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NHTSA Pursues Drunk Driving Prevention Tech in Vehicles

Abstract Background concept of alcoholic beverages and driving.

What does this mean for drivers in Texas?

A proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require new vehicles to come standard with alcohol-detecting technology has the potential to seriously alter how DWI cases are handled in Texas and across the U.S.

Our criminal defense attorneys are closely following how the technology is developed and utilized by the government and criminal justice system. We're concerned that mandating this technology could lead to over-reliance on flawed testing and potential violations of privacy and defendants' rights.

BAC-testing tech could be required in new cars

At the heart of the NHTSA proposal are advanced sensors capable of detecting alcohol levels through touch or the ambient air. Some systems utilize steering wheel and gear lever sensors that measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from the driver's skin, while others assess the air in the vehicle's cabin. Specifically, the methods of impairment evaluation being considered include:

  • In-vehicle breathalyzer devices require a breath test before starting the vehicle, deterring drunk driving.
  • Breath and touch sensors detect alcohol levels in a driver's breath or bloodstream.
  • Eye movement monitoring cameras follow a driver's eye movements for signs of impairment.
  • Vehicle-to-driver communication systems assess a driver's alertness and responsiveness to deduce impairment.

This technology doesn't just attempt to measure alcohol presence; it prevents the vehicle from operating if it determines impairment. A false positive test result could shut down a person's vehicle as they are on their way to work, school, running errands,  going to medical appointments, etc.

Questions about privacy must be answered

The widespread integration of anti-DWI technology in new cars and trucks must be approached with caution. While technological advancements hold promise, they're not infallible.

Consider the evolution of breath BAC tests: once hailed as nearly bulletproof evidence, they've since fallen from grace. Many courts now reject breathalyzer results due to their unreliability. Given this, the proposal to integrate BAC detection and anti-impairment tech into cars deserves skepticism. Important questions must be answered to protect individual rights before requiring vehicle manufacturers to include monitoring tech in new vehicles, such as:

  • What measures would be in place to prevent false positives that could unfairly penalize drivers?
  • When will drivers be tested? When starting the vehicle only, or throughout their travels?
  • How would the accuracy of these systems be continuously verified and maintained to uphold trust in their judicial application?
  • What safeguards are in place to protect individuals' privacy rights? Who will monitor test results, what information will they obtain, how will it be kept, and how will it be used?
  • How long will information obtained by the technology be retained, and how will it be stored and destroyed?
  • How can we ensure that integrating this technology into criminal justice proceedings maintains fairness, accuracy, and justice for the accused?

With tests, there is always room for mistakes that can result in false positives for impairment - human error, equipment defects, poor maintenance, misunderstood interpretation, lost data, mishandled specimens, and more. While technology may be a promising avenue for reducing DWI incidents, the integration of monitoring devices in all new vehicles gives the technology more authority than it deserves.

At Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer we have extensive experience fighting unreliable DWI test results. Our DWI attorneys know what it takes to demonstrate to prosecutors, judges, and juries technology's poor track record for accurately detecting impairment.

BAC test results are often wrong

As a former assistant district attorney, Amanda Webb is deeply familiar with the state’s criminal justice system. She uses this knowledge to fight for people facing DWI charges in Texas. Our legal team doesn't accept a prosecutor's narrative or police report as facts. We dig deep to find out exactly what happened so that we can fight for the best possible outcome of your case.

If you have been charged with DWI in Conroe, the Greater Houston Area, or a nearby community, contact our law firm today for a free case evaluation. A member of our team can listen to the details of what happened, explain your rights and options, and help you decide what to do next.