Could Technology End Distracted Driving?

Earlier this month, OPP Sgt Kerry Schmidt shared that since January 1st, 2020, more than 400 Ontario drivers have been caught or charged with impaired or dangerous driving–in the GTA alone. Clearly, despite all we know about the horrors of impaired driving, many people are still making deadly choices when they get behind the wheel. “The message in not getting out there enough… what part of this don’t you understand?” Schmidt wondered.

Every day in Canada, about 4 people are killed in impaired driving collisions and hundreds more are injured. Despite ongoing attempts at public education and awareness, according to Andrew Murie, MADD Canada’s Chief Executive Officer, “Canada has not seen a large sustained reduction in impairment-related crash deaths in more than a decade.”

It is somewhat encouraging that in a recent Ipsos survey, 78% of Canadians said they “are willing to have technology integrated into their vehicle at no extra cost to them that would prevent it from being operated while the driver was in an impaired state.”

This is good news for MADD, though they’d like that number to be 100%. The organization provided a look at the many in-vehicle technological developments that could put an end to preventable crashes caused by impaired driving. According to MADD, some of those developments include:

  • Breath-based testing of ethanol (alcohol) levels
  • Touch-based measurement of ethanol (alcohol) levels in skin
  • Oral fluid screening (cannabis) that could be adapted for in-vehicle use
  • Vision algorithms that detect drowsiness and may be adaptable for signs of impairment

Some of that research is taking place right here in Ontario. Researchers at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute use the iDAPT DriverLab (Canada’s most sophisticated driving simulator) to learn more about the effects of drugs on driving. Researchers there plan on testing “in-vehicle technologies and roadside devices to detect impairment, such as cognitive tests, as well as devices that can prevent accidents, such as forward and lateral collision mitigation systems.”

Given the difficulty of getting drivers to simply make safe choices, it may take mandatory in-vehicle sobriety testing to stop impaired driving once and for all. “If some people can’t make the responsible choice to not drive when they are impaired, their car will make it for them,” says MADD Canada’s national president, Jaymie-Lyne Hancock.

Both the OPP and MADD Canada encourage people to call 911 if they witness a suspected impaired or dangerous driver. Visit MADD Canada’s Campaign 911 page to learn 10 possible signs of an impaired driver.  You can also learn more about how our office helps families affected by impaired driving here.