THE BLOG
02/07/2011 04:54 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Saving Lives by Stopping Drunk Drivers

One life that is lost senselessly is one too many. Since 2005, more than 1,800 Ohioans have been killed in auto accidents involving an alcohol impaired driver. We can develop the technology needed to save lives by stopping drunk drivers from operating a car in the first place.

Ideas for this technology already exist. We just need to help advance their development and utilization.

That is why I plan to join a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the ROADS SAFE Act. This legislation would promote the development of commonsense technology to prevent drunk drivers from putting the lives of others at risk. By keeping drunk drivers from getting on the road, we can help save lives and give families and law enforcement officials a new powerful tool to combat drunk driving.

How many more Ohio families will have to bury a loved one because a drunk driver ended a life?

In this era of renewed American innovation, this is a real possibility.

The ROADS SAFE Act would support the creation of a partnership between anti-drunk driving advocates, large car companies, and the federal government to design devices that stop intoxicated people from ever turning on the car. This bill, which would not increase the deficit, would authorize funding already allotted for road safety initiatives through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program.

In-vehicle technology to prevent drunk driving is an opportunity to create safer roads and save lives. Existing devices, such as ignition locks, can be expensive and obtrusive. One goal of new technology that would be developed as a result of the ROADS SAFE Act is to make the device smaller and less noticeable; so that for example, parents could choose to install it in the car used by their teenager.

Each year, Ohio hospitals treat the victims of drunk driving, first responders attend to victims' injuries, and a host of other public resources are diverted to address the results of impaired driving. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, this year alone some 1,640 drivers have already been stopped for operating a vehicle while impaired.

NHTSA estimates that the annual cost of alcohol-related crashes in the U.S. totals more than $51 billion. During 2001-2005, the Ohio State Highway Patrol estimates that impaired driving cost state and local economies a combined $4 billion.

We cannot afford to leave this problem for the next generation.

According to NHTSA, drivers between the ages of 21-24 have the highest intoxication rates in fatal crashes. What does this mean for Ohio's future? It means that we need to do a better job of protecting Ohioans from the dangers of alcohol impaired driving.

Technology that can determine a driver's blood alcohol content from sensors on the steering wheel or engine start button could be explored under this legislation. We owe it to the 1,838 Ohio families who never saw a child graduate from high school or a parent reach retirement because of a drunken driving fatality to address the problem with real world solutions.

This isn't about government intrusion. This legislation -- which has enjoyed bipartisan support in previous forms -- would not require that this technology be installed in any car. It simply gives families and law enforcement officials a new means of combating drunk driving.

Every American deserves the right to reach their God-given potential. Drunk driving has cut too many lives short which is why this legislation is urgently needed. Ohioans are an innovative people. Cleveland-native Garrett Morgan invented the traffic signal. Another Clevelander, Alexander Winton, built the motor vehicle used in the first, safe cross-country automobile trip. We have a long, storied history with automobiles. With our history of innovation, Americans can develop and utilize technology to save lives on the road.

Let's solve this problem now.