Nearly all drivers are used to seeing police radar guns at this point, and many of us have been victim to one of these radars if we have been issued a ticket for speeding as a result. Now researchers in Poland seem to have made a breakthrough in creating a similar device that would allow police officers to determine if someone is on the road while they are drunk.
In a recent article published in the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, the two researchers describe developing a laser that would detect the presence of alcohol vapors in a moving car. The idea behind the prototype would be that it scans cars as they are driving down a highway. If the device picks up the presence of alcohol in the car, it will alert an officer parked further down the road so that they may stop the car and investigate further.
There are still some major bugs that will have to be worked out before this system can be actually used in the field though. First, it would only detect the presence of alcohol if someone has a BAC over .10, meaning that someone could still be driving drunk if they were over .08 and it would not be sensed by the device. Also, the device would not be able to differentiate between a driver and a passenger, meaning that a car could be driving perfectly legally and be pulled over because of a drunk passenger, not a driver.
The largest problem seems to be that drivers can easily bypass detection by this system a few different ways. The laser does not seem to work when a driver has the windows open. It can also be blocked if a sun shield is in the window. Finally, it is unclear if having the car’s fan or AC on high may affect the scan. The researchers who wrote the study say they are trying to create a way for the system to detect if someone is using one of these measures to bypass detection.
There are a number of different legal issues that are going to have to be dealt with before a system like this will be able to be used in the United States and Florida. Because it is new technology, before evidence gathered from this system can be used in court, it must be well established that it is reliable. At this point, this system is not. Much more research would have to be done before a system like this could be considered a reliable one.
Another issue involving this system will likely be people getting pulled over for suspected drinking and driving when they actually have done nothing wrong. A driver could be pulled over for drunk passengers and be made to do a breathalyzer when he or she is only a designated driver. A more chilling effect could be police pulling people over for perfectly legal activities like driving with their windows open or with their air conditioning on high solely based on belief they are trying to beat an alcohol detection system, something not allowed under U.S. law.
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