Schumer Pushes Technology to End Drunken Driving
Plans to co-sponsor a bill to fund DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) technology
By Corinne Ramey
July 26, 2015
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer pushed on Sunday to step up federal funding for technology that he said could stop drunken-driving-related deaths, a week after four women were killed in a Long Island crash that authorities allege was fueled by alcohol.
“There is a technology that could pretty much put drunk driving, and drunk-driving deaths and injuries, to an end,” Mr. Schumer, a Democrat, said at a Manhattan news conference. “It’s on the shelf. We have to perfect it so it’s usable in every car, and have it work.”
Mr. Schumer said he plans to co-sponsor a bill introduced by New Mexico Democrat Sen. Tom Udall that would fund research and development of DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) technology, which prevents drivers with high blood-alcohol content from starting a car. The technology uses touch- and breath-based systems, Mr. Schumer said.
The Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-Related Fatalities Everywhere Act would authorize $48 million over six years for the existing DADSS program, a partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, an industry group.
In the past few years, the program has received roughly $5 million in federal funding annually, according to advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Mr. Schumer said the bill would not mandate use of DADSS for all drivers, though that could be discussed. “At the very least [the technology] would be optional to everyone, and all people who have any conviction of DWI or DUI would have to have it in their cars,” he said, referring to the criminal charges of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence.
The American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association, has opposed various versions of the bill.
“If you’re going to ask for $48 million over the next six years, you should be honest about what you’re going to accomplish, which is you want this in all cars,” said Sarah Longwell, the association’s managing director. “This will have the very real consequence of severely restricting any moderate and responsible social drinking.”
More than 10,000 people were killed nationwide in alcohol-related driving crashes in 2013, or 31% of total motor-vehicle traffic deaths, according to NHTSA data.
There were more than 8,000 alcohol-related crashes in New York state in 2013. Long Island’s Suffolk County, where the July 18 crash that killed four women occurred, had more alcohol-related crashes than any other county in the state, according to state records.
Steven Romeo, 55 years old, of Southold, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated in connection with the crash. Mr. Romeo’s truck hit the side of a limousine carrying eight women, officials said.
On Friday, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Mr. Romeo had a blood-alcohol reading below the state’s legal limit when he was tested after the crash. But Mr. Spota said it was too early to say whether his office would downgrade the charge facing Mr. Romeo.