The Future of DUI Detection
The year is 2020. You and your friends were out celebrating an event at a bar and no one had a sober driver, but not to worry! You have an autonomous car that will safely drive itself back to your home while you’re curled up in the fetal position on the floorboards regretting the last few whisky sours. Out of nowhere, police emergency lights go off, and your robot car comes to a stop. What’s the problem? The cloud of alcohol vapor from your breathing has filled the car and been detected by law enforcement’s high-tech laser beams.
Yes, you read that right: lasers that detect alcohol vapor inside a closed vehicle. Much like the autonomous cars, these advanced alcohol detection devices have already been designed by a team of Polish researchers and are in the testing phases. According to a recent paper in the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, the Institute of Optoelectronics at the Military University of Technology in Warsaw has successfully designed a system that can detect the presence of exhaled alcohol vapor in a passing car. The laser beam is projected at the vehicle using various detectors and reflecting mirrors. “The monitoring beam goes through the car two times,” during which point in time any alcohol vapor within the cabin of the car will absorb the laser beam. If the beam is absorbed, the machine then captures the license plate number of the vehicle and relays a message about the presence of alcohol vapor to law enforcement further away.
This machine is sort of like a photo radar camera for DUIs, but any detection would obviously have to be further investigated by the police. Although the researchers note that they have used calculations for particular BACs, the vapor that a person breathes out may not be equivalent to the person’s actual BAC. And a person who has had a drink may eliminate alcohol vapor without being over the legal limit or impaired. Also, as the paper notes, the alcohol vapor could be coming from a passenger riding in the car and not the driver himself.
This particular type of enforcement—stopping a vehicle without any evidence of traffic violations such as speeding, improper turns, etc.—is highly controversial. Although our Supreme Court has determined that DUI checkpoints are lawful, there is a barrage of rules that have to accompany the checkpoints in order for them to be approved and not be a violation of your constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches. The same rules would likely need to be developed if this alcohol detecting laser technology were adopted by law enforcement here in the United States. Even though we all desire to make our roads as safe as possible and value technological advancements designed to do this, we also need to preserve the rights and freedoms we have fought so hard to establish and maintain.
So what do you think about this laser-based DUI detection? We’d love to hear your feedback!