Insurers, Let’s Create A World Without Drunk Driving


Imagine a world without drunk driving. Imagine a world in which 29 people a day get to live instead of die – in which, every 50 minutes, a loved one’s funeral doesn’t need to be planned.

Imagine an economy with $44 billion saved, because alcohol-related crashes have not incurred those costs.

According to the CDC, drunk driving is involved in 28 percent of traffic deaths. Among children under age 14, it’s responsible for 17 percent. That means, in 2016, drunk driving caused 10,497 fatalities: imagine those people still alive today. Imagine those 214 children going to school right now.

Obviously, the human cost speaks for itself. In addition, for insurers, the economic impact of drunk driving is heavy: while there’s “no ‘normal’ settlement for car accident injuries caused by a drunk driver,” according to Beliz Law, an individual claim can range from under $10,000 to more than a million dollars. Looking at fatal collisions alone, we know the frequency: about 30 claims per day. This math, too, speaks.

But imagining a world without drunk driving only gets you so far. In order to realize it, action is needed.

Here’s where things get interesting. According to Time, “Road safety advocates converged on Congress Thursday to promote a new set of blood alcohol sensors that could prevent drivers from operating their vehicles while intoxicated.”

The idea comes from a joint research program called DADSS, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. Smart cars equipped with breath-based or touch-based sensors could calculate a driver’s sobriety and refuse to budge if the blood alcohol level is above the legal limit.

It’s not the first time technology has taken a stab at the problem of drunk driving. Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) have been around since 1969, Ignition Interlock Info said, installed by court order in the vehicles of DUI offenders. According to Property Casualty 360, these devices “have proven to be powerful when it comes to fighting DUIs,” saving the public $3 to $7 for every $1 spent.

That said, these devices are installed in an offender’s car only after a judge has mandated them. IIDs are punitive, not preventative, and since they’re installed in only a few vehicles, they’re not the norm, either.

Here the DADSS system may be just what we need to carry the cause forward: if installed in new vehicles by default, the system would not be applied selectively, but universally. As such, it would not be perceived as punitive, but preventative. In other words, it could carry all the same benefits of IID – in terms both of public safety and cost savings – not just to a few, but to the general public.

Especially if insurers help it along.

This is an area where we our industry has an opportunity to take the wheel: for example, investing in the technology; offering a premium discount to drivers who install a DUI-preventative device (be it IID, DADSS or something else); and marketing the discount to Millennials and parents of Gen Z drivers, who are currently the most likely demographics either to be or know someone who could benefit from this.

In the face of the drunk driving epidemic, insurers don’t have to stand by passively. Given our many-layered, shared incentive to address this problem, we have every reason to take the lead – and with the DUI-detection sensors currently available, we also have the ability.