Vice Squad
Friday, December 26, 2003
Improvements in Sobriety-Sensing Cars

The Guardian from December 23 notes the ongoing development of a device that judges the hand-eye coordination of drivers. An infrared sensor can determine where a driver is looking, and this information can be compared with simultaneous data from steering wheel movements. Alcohol consumption causes eyes to slow down, which actually decreases the time interval between eye movement and steering wheel adjustment. Potential interventions include a verbal warning to stop driving, automatic notification of the police, or the activation of speed controls. The device costs some 40,000 pounds right now. Nevertheless, these sorts of technologies have a lot to recommend them as regulatory controls, because they target the real problem -- unsafe driving -- much more closely than do many other policies. (Even equal blood alcohol levels can mean something much different at different times and across drivers.) And the device is unconcerned with the cause of the poor driving, whether it be eating a hamburger while driving or a high blood alcohol content.

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