Join Date: May 2001
Location: Somewhere over the rainbow
Car Device Detects Signs of Drunk Driving
A new device has been developed to help prevent drunk driving. The in-car device checks motorists' line of vision and comes from research into how the brain works to help guide movement. Dr. Dilwyn Marple-Horvat of Bristol University, UK, the creator of the device, says it has the potential to be installed in cars within a year.
Marple-Horvat said a close relationship exists between drivers' eyes and their hands on the steering wheel. "We already know that when driving your eyes tend to move to look at the curb just before you start to turn the wheel," he told BBC News Online. "When drunk, your eyes start to move later and later until eventually, when really drunk, they only move as you hit the bend."
He said alcohol affects the cerebellum, which links together parts of the brain that process visual information to parts enabling movement. He has studied the relationship between eye movement and coordination in people with a rare degenerative brain disease called cerebellar ataxia, and says vision normally helps trigger activity in parts of the brain that are key to coordination.
"With alcohol, the bit of the brain waiting for help [with movement] either doesn't get it or gets the wrong help," he says. Michael Land of the University of Sussex finds the delay between seeing the corner and responding interesting: "It implies that the delay is maintained actively and reverts to a simple reaction time when you're drunk."
Marple-Horvat's device correlated information from a gadget that monitors steering wheel movement and an in-car eye-tracking system that can tell where eyes are looking through the windshield. "We can detect a change in efficiency at less than one pint of beer," he said.
He said the device is still in the planning stages, but that it has potential for a variety of uses. He said it could simply warn the driver against driving, or act as a black box system which would record the fact that the driver had been warned but continued to drive. It could also be linked to the engine to automatically slow the car down, or even alert police. But whether the gadget should be fitted to cars would be up to legislators, said Marple-Horvat.
"Personally if I was driving my car and thought I was fine to drive and wasn't, I would prefer to find out before I injured myself or somebody else," he said. Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said there might be benefits from monitoring the alertness of a driver, but it could dangerous to promote equipment as a drink-driving safety device.
"The simplest and best advice is that if you are drinking, don't drive and if you are driving, don't drink. You shouldn't have to rely on a technological device." And John Stanley of the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the industry has always advocated responsible car use. Stanley said the research was interesting from a safety point of view, but the best practice would be not to drink and drive.
Source: University of Bristol; BBC
You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said, 'Parking Fine.'So that was nice.