If passed, a provision in the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would require automakers to include state-of-the-art smart technology in all new cars that would ultimately eliminate drunk driving.
That’s a tall order as some 10,142 people were killed in 2019 alone in drunk-driving crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
But safety advocates, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), champion the provision in the legislation saying it would be the most significant, lifesaving public policy victory in MADD’s 41-year history and would mark the beginning of the end of drunk driving.
Here are a few facts that fleet owners should know about the timing and implementation of the technology in the event that the bill passes.
For starters, the legislation gives NHTSA three years to evaluate technologies and set the standard for impaired driving prevention technology on all new vehicles. Automakers would have two to three years to implement the technology. That means new cars equipped with the NHTSA-directed technology could start rolling off the assembly line in 2026-2027.
There are basically three categories of drunk and impaired driving prevention technologies that already exist and could potentially be deployed. These include driving performance monitoring systems that monitor the vehicle movement with systems like lane departure warning and attention assist; driver monitoring systems that monitor the driver’s head and eyes, typically using a camera or other sensors; and passive alcohol detection systems that use sensors to determine whether a driver is drunk and then prevent the vehicle from moving.
The auto industry has the resources and expertise to make safety advancements like drunk driving prevention a reality, much the same way it has used its R&D prowess for self-driving vehicles, electrification and many safety innovations. Volvo, Nissan, and Toyota have all already taken various steps to design and/or implement drunk driving prevention systems.
Finally, consumers appear to support the initiative. According to a recent nationwide poll conducted by Ipsos for MADD, 9 of 10 Americans support technology that is integrated into a car’s electronics to prevent drunk driving (89% say it is a good or very good idea), while 3 of 4 (77%) back Congressional action to require this technology in all new vehicles.
More broadly, 83% believe that new auto safety features should be standard in vehicles as they become available, not part of optional equipment packages.
Every day, approximately 28 people in the U.S. lose their lives in drunk-driving crashes, according to the NHTSA — that’s one person every 52 minutes.