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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Alcohol Countermeasures Help Reduce Intoxicated Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Alcohol Countermeasures Program was established to deal with the serious problems caused by the intoxicated driver.

Volpe is providing continuing support to further reduce the rate of intoxicated driving through the development and evaluation of measurement techniques for alcohol on the breath, development of performance guidelines for breath measurement devices, testing of instruments intended for police use, and technical support of demonstration and research programs.

The Challenge

Under Section 403 of the Highway Safety Act of 1966, the Secretary of Transportation is required to carry out a research and demonstration program. In the area of alcohol breath testing, the requirements of the Act are met by NHTSA through the Office of Traffic Injury Control Programs and the Office of Research and Traffic Records.

They are supported by a laboratory capability and expertise established at Volpe devoted to the development and evaluation of test procedures and related instrumentation.

The Solution

Started in 1970, Volpe’s Alcohol Countermeasures Laboratory is the primary NHTSA-recognized laboratory with the authority to test and approve alcohol-detection devices that are used by law enforcement and the transportation industry.

Through its Alcohol Countermeasures Laboratory, Volpe evaluates alcohol devices according to NHTSA's Model Specifications for evidential breath testers, alcohol screening devices, and calibrating units. Those devices that meet the specifications are added to NHTSA's Conforming Products List.

Volpe’s Alcohol Countermeasures Laboratory also evaluates other alcohol test devices of interest because of potential usefulness in alcohol countermeasures. Devices to be tested may include ignition interlock devices, disposable or re-useable personal breath testers, passive breath testers, or devices that test other fluids for alcohol (e.g., saliva testers).

See alcohol measuring device technical and testing information.

In addition, the Alcohol Countermeasures Laboratory conducts ongoing biannual blood alcohol proficiency tests as a quality control service to participating laboratories. Blood alcohol samples are prepared and then shipped to participating laboratories throughout the world. Reports summarizing overall proficiency are prepared and sent to all participants.

The Impact

Volpe’s Alcohol Countermeasures Laboratory and the work that it completes helps NHTSA in its efforts to reduce the rate of intoxicated driving.

As part of this overall effort, Volpe’s work helps NHTSA do the following:

  • Maintain and regularly issue a Conforming Products List of devices meeting NHTSA Model Specifications.
  • Exchange instrument testing information between breath instrument manufacturers, including those from outside the U.S.
  • Exchange information between state breath test programs, evaluating demonstration instrumentation for use in field tests and providing breath test technology expertise at state workshops, pre-trial hearings, and trial driving while intoxicated (DWI) hearings.
  • Operate NHTSA's alcohol ignition automobile interlock device testing program, including the certification of automobile interlock devices.
A hand-held breath tester that a user can blow into and receive a digital numeric reading from.
The alcohol countermeasures program addresses the development and evaluation of test procedures and related instrumentation that measure alcohol from bodily fluids. (Volpe photo)