Scientists, law enforcement agencies and government entities are always on the lookout for technology that could reduce drunk driving. Last year, 22% of serious traffic accidents in New Jersey had alcohol as a contributing factor. Though interlock ignition devices have prevented numerous accidents, there is a new form of technology that could play an even bigger role in reducing drunk driving: passive alcohol sensor devices.

What to know about passive alcohol sensors

New Jersey currently uses interlock ignition devices as a punitive and preventative measure for drivers already convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). Though these devices have saved several lives, they require a driver to activate them by blowing into a tube. Passive alcohol sensors, though, do not require action on the part of the driver.

Passive alcohol sensors detect particles of alcohol put into the air via the driver’s breath. Once installed, it can activate automatically. While drivers can trick interlock ignition devices into starting their car by having a passenger blow into them, passive alcohol sensors will not allow the vehicle to start if it detects alcohol in the air near the driver’s seat.

Prevention is better than reaction

The state requires interlock ignition devices only after someone is convicted of drunk driving. However, manufacturers could add passive alcohol sensors to all vehicles they manufacture. This would prevent drunk driving before it results in a DUI or a car crash.

These devices are not yet in use, but it is only a matter of time before they become widespread. Developers estimate that new automobiles may have passive alcohol sensors by 2025. Until then, it is up to drivers to limit their alcohol consumption, use their interlock ignition devices as directed and keep the roads safe for others.