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In a longstanding tradition, if a police officer suspects a driver of DUI, a field sobriety test will be performed.
In such a test, the driver might be asked to walk in a straight line, stand on one leg, or touch finger to nose. Failure at these simple tasks of coordination will lead to a driver breathalyzer test, and failing that test means a DUI charge and a trip to the station followed by rehab.
Technological progress, however, is adding new tools to law enforcement's ability to detect whether a driver is under the influence...
A combination flashlight/alcohol detector has been around for years. It uses an electrochemical fuel cell sensor to detect the presence of alcohol vapor. The police officer places the flashlight up to the driver's window and presses a button, and the device not only reports whether alcohol is present within the interior of the vehicle but gives a reading that can be correlated with DUI arrest levels. It doesn't say whether the driver or a passenger has been drinking or someone else has, but it does allow reasonable suspicion for a field sobriety or breathalyzer test.
The technology to use light to detect alcohol vapor is just getting started. Research in optoelectronic remote-sensing technology is being done to enable roadside monitors to detect the presence of alcohol vapor inside moving vehicles. This would constitute reasonable suspicion for the police to stop the car and administer a more definitive test for sobriety.
Someday such scanning technology may become common along roadsides. DUI evaders will likely attempt to thwart detection by tinting their automobile windows or keeping them rolled down, but that will raise red flags too.
Waiting outside a bar or restaurant to make an arrest at the instant the key goes into the ignition will become easier with police departments using computers to correlate blood alcohol content data gathered from DUI stops with days and times. Police officers already know where the problem areas are, but crunching the data will allow refinement.
Such a system stops well short of 'pre-crime' abuse, but there is concern that by encouraging police departments to concentrate resources in a given area, the data will become self-fulfilling prophecy, as more arrests lead to even further concentration at the expense of other areas that won't be a problem because there are no resources there to make DUI stops.
While methods to detect drunkeness are improving, progress still lags in detecting whether a driver is high. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, becomes absorbed in body fat and registers high levels in testing even weeks after smoking. Moreover, blood samples have to be sent to a lab and the wait for results can itself take weeks.
Thus the race is on to develop a 'breathalyzer for marijuana.' Venture capital is being raised, and a start-up hopes to have a product on the market within a year.
Super Bowl partygoers may have been surprised in 2017 when their bag of chips warned them that they may have been drinking too much and offered a QR code to call Uber. The breathalyzer-in-bag technology was introduced as part of the Super Bowl marketing buildup and isn't affordable enough to be practical yet.
According to Casa Nuevo Vida, keeping sober living resolutions is easier than it used to be. Nonetheless, it points to the day when a drinker hears a disembodied voice telling him maybe he's had enough, and it really will be the bottle that's talking. What next? Perhaps a hologram of a dancing pink elephant to provide a distraction while a tiny robot arm hides the car keys.