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Secretary Ray LaHood Remarks as Prepared “Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety” QinetiQ Labs, Waltham, Massachusetts

Good morning.  Thank you, J.D., for the introduction and welcome.  I’m delighted to share the podium with my friend, Laura Dean Mooney, from MADD.  Nineteen years ago, Laura’s husband Mike was killed when a drunk driver hit his car head-on.  But Laura transformed unimaginable tragedy into a powerful commitment to save others’ lives. Thank you, Laura, for your courage and advocacy.

Now, before we get started, I also want to say a special word about the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.  Few have done more to take drunk drivers off the road.  Few have more effectively demonstrated how industry can work with government.  The Department of Transportation and ACTS have been – and will continue to be – great partners.  And I‘d like to thank you, Shane, for joining us today and representing the coalition.

A few moments ago, we demonstrated a new tool that may hold promise for stopping drunk driving before it happens.  This technology can detect whether a driver is over the legal limit.  And it can prevent that driver from operating his or her vehicle if he or she is under the influence.

With remarkable speed, this tool – the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS – has evolved from a moon-shot idea to a device-in-development.  It may be another means – like lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise control – to help avert crashes, injuries, and fatalities before they occur.  It could – one day – become another arrow in our automobile-safety quiver.

Still, I want to make clear:  We are not advocating that automakers install DADDS in every car.  DADDS is not designed to prohibit people from enjoying a glass of wine with dinner or a beer at the game.

Look: There’s no question that we’ve made significant progress toward keeping our roadways safe from drunk drivers.  Because of strong laws, consistent enforcement, and increasing public awareness, drunk driving-related fatalities have declined by more than 40 percent during the last three decades –   and by 20 percent during the last three years.

But we’re here today because our work isn’t done.  Not when impaired drivers constitute almost one-third of all roadway fatalities.  And not when 11,000 people die in alcohol-related crashes every year – the equivalent of one drunk driving death every 48 minutes.

While we should be encouraged by our successes, we cannot be lulled into complacency.  So, I’m pleased that these very smart people continue exploring what could be a new frontier in roadway safety.

Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
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