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Three concerns about new passive anti-drunk driving tech in new vehicles

The Canadian government is examining the potential use of technology to detect drunk driving in vehicles. This follows legislation that was passed in the United States requiring all vehicles manufactured there to have passive alcohol-sensing technology by 2026. Although the technology has the potential to reduce drunk driving incidents, there are concerns about its effectiveness and potential intrusion into privacy.

While this is something that Madd Canada has been encouraging, the Canadian government hasn’t yet indicated that it’s going to pass this legislation. It is participating in a series of studies that are being conducted by governments across the world to explore the feasibility of incorporating passive alcohol sensing technology into motor vehicles.

Built-in breathalyzer

The idea behind the technology is to prevent people from driving drunk. However, there are several valid concerns about whether the technology will actually prevent harm from being caused. One technology being considered is using a breathalyzer that is installed on the steering wheel of the vehicle. The breathalyzer is supposed to capture the breath of the driver. But, if the vehicle has passengers who are drunk, the ambient air in the car can reek of alcohol, making it difficult for the breathalyzer to differentiate between the driver’s breath and the air from other passengers.

Alcohol testing via skin

Another method is skin sensing technology, which would test a patch of skin before the car starts. However, skin-sensing alcohol technology is not advanced enough to determine a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration. This is because different people produce different levels of sweat and it is difficult to correlate a blood alcohol concentration to a skin alcohol concentration or sweat alcohol concentration.

Additionally, anybody in the car can place their skin on the car and defeat the system, regardless of whether they are drunk or not.

The government spying on everyone

Despite the obvious benefits of preventing drunk driving, there are big concerns about government intrusion into private spaces. The courts recognize a reduced expectation of privacy in a vehicle, but mandating and accessing data from the technology raises questions about government intrusion into private spaces. If the government mandates and collects data about what a person is doing in their car, that would be a significant intrusion into people’s privacy interests.

While passive alcohol sensing technology may be viewed as an innovative solution to the problem of drunk driving, it is not a silver bullet. It raises concerns about privacy, accuracy, and the possibility of government intrusion into private spaces. Moreover, there are already excellent mechanisms in place to detect drunk driving, such as random traffic stops, roadblocks, and random breath testing. Adding this extra layer of technology might not lead to a decrease in impaired driving but it will lead to an increase in government surveillance in private spaces.

If proposed legislation requiring passive alcohol sensing equipment makes its way before parliament, the BC Driving Lawyers will be sure to bring our concerns to the Parliamentary and Senate committees.

If you have a drinking driving case anywhere in BC, let us help you. We’re the BC driving lawyers. We have 28 years of experience successfully defending DUI cases in BC.