There's a huge market for advanced technology in the law enforcement industry. The rise of the Ignition Interlock industry and the plethora of new laws mandating installation by accused drivers is a good example.
While much of the market focuses on newer weapons and stronger officer protections, there's a significant amount of products that are utilizing laser technology. The most commonly-known tool is the laser speed gun which helps police catch speeders. But a new laser device may one day be used to combat drunk driving.
Scientists in Poland have developed a prototype for a laser that can detect alcohol vapor inside a vehicle as it passes by a stationary point. Instruments are supposedly sensitive enough to read changes in the laser as it passes through the alcohol vapor which is often exhaled by a driver who has been imbibing.
However, Washington drivers shouldn't be worried about this technology appearing in law enforcement vehicles anytime soon. For one thing, the prototype is said to be able to detect alcohol content within .1. But since the legal limit in Washington and most other states is .08 grams per 210 liters of breath, it's likely that agencies would wait until such a device becomes more sensitive to alcohol content gradations.
Also, the scientists readily admit that the device has limitations. For one thing, there's no way to tell whether the alcohol vapor being detected is coming from the driver or a passenger, which would essentially leave DUI determination to police as is currently the case. But more importantly, the technology can be circumvented simply by opening the car windows to allow the alcohol vapor to disperse.
Even in its present form, the laser alcohol detector is still years away from being used for law enforcement applications. Given that even today's DUI tools and procedures are far from perfect, let's hope that Washington police departments refrain from spending taxpayer dollars on this tool for at least several more years.