Drunk driving is one of the most common causes of car accidents. Every year, thousands of people die in collisions with drunk drivers. Others involved in DUI accidents are left irreparably injured, their lives changed forever. While we have laws making it illegal to drive with one’s blood alcohol content above a certain percentage, they don’t prevent those who have been drinking from getting behind the wheel of a car. Instead, they punish them after they are caught.
This has been a problem for a long time, and for over a decade, automaker safety agencies have been researching ways to make cars safer, looking for ways to better prevent people under the influence of alcohol from driving on our nation’s roads. It seems a solution is finally coming to fruition, with lawmakers soon requiring car manufacturers to install alcohol monitoring systems in all new vehicles. With this in our future, perhaps we’ll see a drastic decrease in the number of injuries and fatalities caused by drunk driving.
Blood alcohol monitoring systems in cars are becoming a reality
Last year, Congress passed a bipartisan infrastructure law requiring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to force auto manufacturers to install alcohol monitoring systems within the next three years. This is a great step forward in reducing the number of drunk driving accidents, though the NHTSA has been known to ask for extensions and take their time concerning such requirements in the past.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has long been researching technologies that could even further reduce drunk driving fatalities. The NHTSA’s most recent requirement involves a piece of technology that takes a more passive approach to determining a driver’s sobriety, and the NTSB is pushing for and continuing to research more thorough and active technologies.
Members of the Board and 16 automakers formed a group named Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. Since 2008, this group has been researching tech and devices that could better determine a person’s blood alcohol content level. NPR talked to a spokesman of the group about their research:
The group has hired a Swedish company to research technology that would automatically test a driver’s breath for alcohol and stop a vehicle from moving if the driver is impaired, said Jake McCook, spokesman for the group. The driver wouldn’t have to blow into a tube, and a sensor would check the driver’s breath, McCook said.
Another company is working on light technology that could test for blood alcohol in a person’s finger, he said. Breath technology could be ready by the end of 2024, while the touch technology would come about a year later.
This new push to have cars installed with better technology for determining whether the driver of the vehicle is inebriated comes from a tragic drunk driving accident where a drunk driver, traveling at speeds exceeding 90 mph, lost control of their vehicle, crossed the center line and collided head on with a vehicle carrying a family of two parents and seven children. The two drivers and all of the children were killed, only survived by the father of the family.
It is highly likely that tragedies such as this can be avoided in the future should more driver alcohol detection systems be designed and adapted to our vehicles. We would like to see a world where fewer people suffer from life-threatening or fatal injuries caused by someone’s poor choices.
Common injuries caused by drunk drivers in Vancouver, WA
While a wrongful death is sometimes the unfortunate outcome of a drunk driving accident, the people involved in the collision may not die but suffer life-altering injuries. These injuries can leave a person changed forever, physically and emotionally, and can affect their family life and work life negatively. Some of these injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injury. Caused when the head is jerked violently or is hit with force, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious one that requires immediate medical attention. The bruises and abrasions that the brain suffers during a TBI can lead to swelling and internal bleeding, which can cause long-term complications, a coma, or death. Symptoms include dizziness, headaches, confusion, loss of consciousness, slurred speech, short term memory loss, and nausea. This is one of the most common and serious injuries seen in car accidents.
- Spinal cord injury. A spinal cord injury (SCI) can cause partial or complete paralysis. Partial paralysis is when you still retain some sensation and function of your body located beneath the site of the injury on your spine. Complete paralysis means that you have lost all function and sensation of the part of your body under the site of the injury. A SCI often requires multiple surgeries over a prolonged period of time, and can leave you requiring mobility aids and therapy for the rest of your life.
- Traumatic amputation. A serious injury that can occur at the location of the accident is a traumatic amputation. These injuries are irreversible and permanent, and extremely emotionally and physically scarring. A traumatic amputation occurs when a limb is severed during the accident, or when the limb is injured beyond repair and must be removed surgically. This injury will likely have you needing prosthetics and/or mobility aids such as a cane or wheelchair. Motorcyclists are at a much higher risk for suffering an amputation due to the lack of protection they have on the road.
- Burn injury. Severe burn injuries of the third degree or higher can be agonizingly painful, taking a long time to heal, and leaving the victim at a high risk of infection and death. Third-degree burns will cause damage through the skin, muscles, and even to the bone. These injuries are likely to have long term effects such as numbness of the affected area (due to damaged nerves), chronic pain, and disfigurement. A severe burn injury can cause lasting emotional trauma and PTSD.
If you have been involved in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, then you very well may have suffered from any one of these injuries. You may be experiencing a loss in income, a decrease in your quality of life, and negative effects on your social life. That is why you need a car accident attorney. We can help you secure compensation from those who caused your accident so that life can be a little more comfortable.
At Philbrook Law Office, we understand the many ways in which a car accident can change your life forever. We know that being financially compensated is important, and we will fight diligently to ensure that you receive restitution for the pain and suffering you have endured. To schedule an appointment, call us or use our contact page. We have offices in Vancouver, WA as well as Battle Ground. Let us help you.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.