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Scientists create laser device that can detect drunk drivers

By shining a laser through a car from the side of the road, researchers can measure blood alcohol levels inside moving vehicles.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

RESEARCHERS IN POLAND have developed a laser which can discover if the person behind the wheel has been drinking.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing by scientists at Warsaw’s Military University of Technology, can detect alcohol vapor inside moving vehicles using special curved mirrors and beams of light.

By shining a laser through a car from the side of the road, before the beam bounces back off a mirror and into a detector, researchers can find out what a driver’s blood alcohol level is.

If the levels are over the limit, a photo of the car, including its number plate, is sent to a policeman who can stop the suspected car and check the driver using conventional equipment.

The beam can detect blood alcohol concentrations of as low as 0.1mg/ml (milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood) in tests simulating the breathing of a drunk driver.

However, the team say the beam could be capable of detecting lower alcohol concentrations and could help reduce the number of cars that have to be checked, and increase efficacy of stopping drunken drivers.

Before you start expecting this to appear anytime soon, the researchers did identify a number of caveats and countermeasures that make the device less effective like leaving the windows open, or the detection of passengers who may have been drinking.

However, the authors wrote that “such situations are very easily detected by the system, which sends this information to the policeman indicating that the car should be checked.”

The study concluded that the next stage of the project will look at the possible countermeasures and investigate them, before it makes it a commercial product.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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