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Will technology end drunk driving arrests?

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The phone you carry with you every day to your New Orleans job is far more powerful than the computers and software that initially made Steve Jobs and Bill Gates famous and rich. Technological advances continue to come at a rapid pace, transforming our jobs, homes, family lives and more.

That advancement makes it reasonable to wonder if tech might one day soon wipe out the problem of drunk driving. Clearly, it's a problem worth addressing, with people harmed and killed in accidents every day and more than a million Americans arrested for drunk driving every year.

The old-school strategy to reduce DWIs has been to make punishments increasingly harsher. (As you know, Louisiana is tough on people who drive drunk. They face the potential of extended jail time, large fines and a driver's license suspension.) The problem with this approach is that people still make mistakes and sometimes get behind the wheel when they should not.

Some observers are hoping that a wave of new technology will dramatically reduce or even eliminate drunk driving. The federal government is pushing automakers and tech companies to create an alcohol-detecting ignition lock. They want a passive system that can't be fooled and will be in the background until called into action by an intoxicated would-be driver.

Some prototypes have already been developed, detecting alcohol in the vehicle's air or by way of skin detection (sensors could be in a start button, for instance). Once an improper level of alcohol is detected, the vehicle cannot be operated.

Of course, it will be difficult for researchers to create a device that correctly determines that alcohol is present at an unacceptable level. A number of factors can affect the degree to which a person might be impaired, including body weight, age, ethnicity and more.

We don't know when or if these alcohol-detection systems will be in vehicles, but we do know that today a drunk driving arrest and conviction will have a serious, negative impact on your life. You can discuss your legal options with an attorney experienced in DWI defense.

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Craig E. Gibbs, Attorney at Law
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