A provision included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act mandates that every new car come equipped with technology that will detect and stop drunk driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is charged with setting a the new safety standard aimed at banishing impaired driving from the nation’s highways and byways.
Thanks to the new bill over 9,400 lives could be saved annually once the right technology is fully implemented on all new cars, according to a 2020 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Experts say the new law is critical to ending the crisis on America’s roadways. An estimated 20,160 people lost their lives in traffic collisions in the first half of 2021, an 18.4% increase over the first half of 2019, according NHTSA. The rise in traffic deaths is due in large part to impaired driving — the leading cause of traffic deaths and injuries — along with speeding and not wearing seatbelts, notes NHTSA.
Under the new legislation, NHTSA will initiate a rulemaking process and set the final standard within three years for impaired driving safety equipment on all new vehicles.
For example, the agency will evaluate diverse technologies including driving performance monitoring systems that monitor the vehicle movement using cameras and sensors that are outside the vehicle, such as lane departure warning and attention assist; systems that monitor the driver’s head and eyes, typically using a camera or other sensors that are inside the vehicle; and, alcohol detection systems that use sensors to determine whether a driver is drunk and then prevent the vehicle from moving.
Once NHTSA determines the parameters, automakers will be given two to three years to implement the safety standard. New cars equipped with the NHTSA-directed technology could start rolling off the assembly line in 2026-2027.
Every day, an estimated 28 people in the U.S. die in drunk-driving-related crashes — that’s one person every 52 minutes. In 2019 alone, 10,142 people were killed due to drunk driving.